Giving Back

Motivated to Keep Girls in School, 7-Year-Old Raises Funds for Direct Relief

When asked how she planned to spend the money raised from her bake sale, 7-year-old Mae Pesendian didn’t hesitate.

“I want to donate it,” Mae told her grandmother, Patti Weber.

With a commitment to empowering girls worldwide, Mae Pesendian raises funds for Direct Relief by selling baked goods to neighbors and friends. (Photo courtesy of Patti Weber)
With a commitment to empowering girls worldwide, Mae Pesendian raises funds for Direct Relief by selling baked goods to neighbors and friends. (Photo courtesy of Patti Weber)

Mae’s response came just months after visiting Direct Relief in 2017, at the age of six, to volunteer with her grandmother. The pair joined more than a dozen volunteers to assemble feminine hygiene kits for distribution to parts of the world where such resources are limited, causing girls to miss as many as two months of school each year while disrupting the professional lives of women.

With support from Day for Girls, a local organization dedicated to creating a more dignified and sustainable world for girls, Mae and others assembled 180 sanitary kits that day. Drawstring bags, two pairs of girls’ underwear, travel-size soap and much more were carefully packed with the intention of keeping girls in school longer – regardless of the time of month. To date, more than 1 million women and girls in over 125 countries have received the kits as part of the organization’s larger effort to support their potential and value as agents of social change.

Moved by the kit’s impact to equip and empower girls globally, Mae left the volunteer event eager to do more.

Mae decorates cupcakes with a friend in preparation for her bake sale. With a commitment to empowering girls worldwide, donated all funds raised to Direct Relief. (Photo courtesy of Patti Weber)
Mae decorates cupcakes with a friend in preparation for her bake sale. With a commitment to empowering girls worldwide, donated all funds raised to Direct Relief. (Photo courtesy of Patti Weber)

“It’s been just over a year since Mae started raising money for Direct Relief,” said Patti, remembering the day in December 2017 when the two started baking goods from scratch. That was Mae’s first of many bake sales to come over the course of 2018.

Fresh out of the oven, warm cookies and festive cupcakes were transported to the curb outside of Patti’s house. There, Mae seized the opportunity to encourage neighbors and friends to buy sweets for a cause she was passionate about.

“I was always shy as a little girl, but Mae isn’t that way,” said Patti. “She would wave her hands and call out to people to encourage them to buy something.”

Often buyers would ask Mae to keep the change when they learned how she planned to use the money.

“Once someone gave me $20,” Mae recalled with a big smile.

In addition to raising money for Direct Relief, Mae also educates neighbors and friends about the importance of feminine hygiene for girls across the globe.

“Her focus is always about keeping girls in school,” Patti explained.

Mae invites friends to sell baked goods to neighbors and friends for Direct Relief. (Photo courtesy of Patti Weber)
Mae invites friends to sell baked goods to neighbors and friends for Direct Relief. (Photo courtesy of Patti Weber)

On Tuesday, January 22, Mae and Patti visited Direct Relief’s headquarters in Santa Barbara to deliver a check.

“I hope that you can use this money,” Mae wrote in a card to staff.

Mae Pesendian receives a certificate of appreciation from Direct Relief staff on Tuesday, January 22. (Bryn Blanks/Direct Relief)
Mae Pesendian receives a certificate of appreciation from Direct Relief staff on Tuesday, January 22. (Bryn Blanks/Direct Relief)

A certificate of appreciation was awarded to Mae for her extraordinary commitment to improving the health and lives of girls worldwide.

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