Deb’s story - Days for Girls
Travelling to India twice a year is such an uplifting experience. Although I am on a mission to find and make beautiful and desirable things for my shop, invariably, I come across new and inspiring experiences and usually have the pleasure of meeting fascinating and like minded travelers from other parts of the world.
I met Deb Cairns in Delhi. We were staying at the same guest house. And, as you do, engaged in conversation over breakfast exchanging thoughts and ideas on travel in India. Our time together was fleeting, but by a marvelous chance of serendipity she turned up at the same hotel where I was staying in Jaipur. I had the opportunity to spend time with her and get to know her better.
Deb grew up in New Zealand as one of three children. She wanted to be a photographer, but after several years of travelling around the world, she met and married Chris and had four children instead. Together they founded Phoenix Organics in 1986. An Auckland based organic drinks company. Their first product was a naturally fermented ‘Ginger Fizz’. They became a fully-certified organic drinks company in 2001 and now have a range of over 20 flavours.
For several years Debs was also a fully qualified sign language interpreter. A role she loved. But, with the death a close friend, Debs was moved to fulfil her last wishes which were to remain in her home rather than go to a funeral parlour. Debs was very affected by this personal experience and was motivated to research into home-based funerals. With a friend she established State of Grace, Family Directed Funerals fourteen years ago and they now have 3 branches across New Zealand.
Debs is a natural carer. She is inspired to use her entrepreneurial skills to develop projects that help people grow in confidence and skills. Her latest venture is the Norfolk Street Workshop. This offers classes to both adults and children in a variety of crafts such as pottery, crochet and painting. When Debs discovered Days for Girls she immediately realised it was the perfect intersection of craft and charity.
Days for Girls was founded by Celeste Mergens in 2008. While assisting in an orphanage in Nairobi she was curious to learn what the girls did for feminine hygiene. The answer was dispiriting. Nothing – girls would have to remain in their homes every month, missing school, a vital part of their future. Celeste was aware of the sensitivity of the issue and realised that the answer was a kit of reusable and washable napkins presented in a drawstring bag. Easily produced from old fabrics, discreet and long lasting.
Debs completed her educator training with Days for Girls a while ago and is establishing a social enterprise project in Rajasthan. These enterprises have multiple benefits for communities where groups of local women can make the kits for their own use, sell them to others and generate an income and support the sustainability of the programme.
In 2018 the Indian film ‘Pad Man’ became a huge box office hit. Starring high profile stars, Akshay Kumar, Sonam Kapoor and Radhika Apte, the film was inspired by the life of Arunchalam Muruganantham, a social entrepreneur from Tamil Nadu. The film shines a light on the outdated attitudes surrounding this natural monthly event.
For further information or fundraising ideas, please go to www.daysforgirls.com.