A little caring can go a long way. A little collaboration can go even further.
That’s the idea behind the Office of Institutional Diversity’s College Cares initiative. The community outreach program seeks to connect the College of Charleston community to Charleston’s minority community for a more comprehensive impact.
This year, that impact reaches all the way to Liberia. The College Cares initiative is supporting the Liberian-American nonprofit Save More Kids (SMK) by bringing together various departments and sororities on campus to contribute to SMK’s Period Project.
“This is the first time we have partnered with a community organization, and we’re really excited because that’s always been the goal – for everyone to work together,” says Kim Gailliard, Office of Institutional Diversity (OID) program coordinator, noting that SMK’s founder has connections to Charleston and that the organization has gained support from former Charleston Mayor Joe Riley and the president of the International Longshoremen’s Association, Ken Riley ’77. “This has really solidified our mission of building bridges throughout and within the community so that we can come together for one cause.”
That cause? Empowering Liberian women and building a more sustainable society. To this end, The Period Project provides support and training programs to help young Liberian women become self-sufficient and contribute to the local economy. And, with 20 percent of girls in Liberia missing school due to menstruation, The Period Project also provides girls and women with feminine care packages.
The College Cares is overseeing the cooperative effort at the College of Charleston by collecting menstrual pads, deodorant, flip-flops and girls’ underwear, which SMK will send to Liberia later this year. Through March 30, 2018, the CofC community may contribute by dropping supplies off at collection sites in any of the participating departments: the OID, Student Health Services, Multicultural Student Programs and Services, Women’s Health Research Team, women’s athletics, African American Studies Program, Women’s and Gender Studies Program, Panhellenic sorority houses and the Center for Civic Engagement.
“The Period Project is a great example of how the community coming together can bring about change,” says Gailliard, noting that support for the project has come from every corner of campus.
“For the College to embrace this project and say no girl or young woman should go without sanitary napkins and do something about it is a true testament to the human spirit and how we are our sisters’ keepers,” says Edwina McGill, coordinator for SMK’s United States team. “The participation of the College allows The Period Project to live on and have a profound impact on the lives of young women all around Liberia. This partnership is so important because it shows that we are truly a part of a globally connected community.”
This is the first time that the College Cares initiative has taken on this kind of far-reaching project – previous efforts have focused on the local Charleston community. Last year, for example, the College Cares collected 500 handwritten notes of encouragement from CofC students and delivered them to Sanders-Clyde Elementary School. It held a book drive, collecting nearly 80 children’s books from various CofC departments and delivering them to locally owned African-American barbershops and hair salons to promote childhood literacy.
“The College Cares was created to engage the campus community in collective outreach initiatives for a greater impact in the Charleston community,” says Gailliard. “There are so many different outreach efforts on this campus – all doing their own thing. But by collaborating and combining our efforts, that’s how change comes about.”