Shriners Hospitals for Children mission expands far beyond hospital walls

Portland Shriners Hospital nurse helps young women in Africa

Wednesday, November 2, 2016
Freeman displaying a dress

Millions of impoverished girls throughout the world face life with no access to safe feminine hygiene protection. Laurie Freeman, an on-call RN in the inpatient unit at the Portland Shriners Hospital, saw this need firsthand on a mission trip to Africa and decided that she would address it. Through her work volunteering extensively with international medical teams in Africa, Laurie saw a huge need and began Threds of Red, a nonprofit that educates and supports girls as they transition into young women. Threds of Red provides health education and offers sustainable feminine hygiene management to at-risk populations worldwide. Laurie is a representation of an individual who lives the mission and values of the Shriners Hospitals for Children outside of these walls.

Freeman in UgandaOn a trip to Uganda, Laurie was particularly affected by the fact that young women had little to no access to feminine hygiene products. She learned from a teacher there that these conditions not only cause medical complications for young women, but pose a large threat to their access to education and proper schooling. Girls in puberty are typically absent 20 percent of the school year and commonly drop out around age 11 or 12 simply because they lack supplies. These girls are commonly teased by their classmates, suffering further embarrassment, humiliation and isolation. Laurie, inspired by the plight of these young women, started Threds of Red to provide education, support and resources to girls in these situations.

At first, Laurie could not fathom how her idea to provide feminine hygiene products around the globe would work, but as support and contributions from volunteers grew, Laurie realized that her idea had the potential to thrive. Laurie never held lofty ideas about what Threds of Red could become, but found that progression came step-by-step.

“I have simply set out to intentionally give to others in a tangible way. When I looked at the problem globally, it seemed logistically and financially impossible.” With programs in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, Threds of Red has begun to mobilize supporters, partners and volunteers locally, creating opportunities for individuals to contribute. The nonprofit recently started a partnership with a local seamstress who teaches refugee women to sew, and includes among their sewing projects reusable feminine hygiene pads. The completed pads are then donated back to Threds of Red to be distributed globally.

Threds of Red continues to provide education and resources for young women across the world, fulfilling the need of thousands of young women who lack basic resources to prosper within their environment. Through the difficult process of beginning and sustaining a successful nonprofit, Laurie has come to an insight, “I realize that there exists this incredible love and generosity in the hearts of many, many good people in this world. And together, we can make amazing things happen.”

Laurie demonstrates that Shriners Hospitals for Children's values expand far outside the walls of the hospital. Laurie lives the mission not only through her work in the IPU, but in Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya, where she transforms young women’s lives. Shriners Hospitals for Children — Portland is proud to be involved with someone who embodies our core values, inside and outside of the hospital.