Helping every child get a good night's sleep



By Doug Dusik
Monday, June 4, 2012

One of four ASMF Humanitarian Projects Awards for 2011 was given to Sleeping Children Around the World (SCAW), a registered Canadian charity that distributes bedkits worldwide to children in disadvantaged countries. SCAW’s dream is to promote, “a world in which every child benefits from the comfort of a good night’s sleep.”

SCAW is operated by volunteers, and all administrative costs are covered by a legacy account set up by founders Margaret and Murray Dryden. This allows 100 percent of every bedkit donation to reach a needy child. The bedkits are made in the countries in which they are distributed, eliminating overhead costs and providing a boost to local economies.

The Drydens established SCAW in 1970, and since then more than 1 million bedkits have been distributed to children in 33 of the world’s poorest nations. To be eligible for bedkit donations, a country must have a per-capita income of less than $2,000 US per year, and more than 40 percent of the population must earn less than $2.00 per day.

Among SCAW’s volunteers is American Academy of Sleep Medicine member Judith Owens, MD, the Director of Sleep Medicine at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and recipient of the 2012 AASM Mark O. Hatfield Public Policy Award. Dr. Owens traveled at her own expense to Tanzania in 2008, helping to hand out over 7,000 bedkits during a two-week trip.

“In many of the poorer nations, there is a basic lack of the rudiments for a good night’s sleep, like a comfortable, safe and dry sleeping environment, protection from disease-carrying insects and the provisions of warmth,” she said. “Through my work with SCAW, I made a very small effort toward achieving the goal of ‘sleeping well’ for all children.”

Bedkits are customized according to local climates and needs, and may include a mat or mattress, pillow, sheet, blanket and mosquito netting. The children also receive clothes and school supplies. The cost of each bedkit is $35 (Canadian funds). Nearly two-thirds of SCAW’s donors are individuals, with the final third comprising churches, schools, service clubs, the corporate community and foundations such as the ASMF.

Dr. Owens applauded the ASMF for its grant and urged donors to consider giving to the cause by visiting www.SCAW.org.

“Whatever each of us can accomplish toward the goal of ensuring that all people, regardless of the available resources, have equal access to the basic building blocks of good sleep makes a truly valuable contribution to society,” she said.

Pune Distribution

The ASMF grant for $16,800 was used to provide 480 bedkits as part of a larger distribution of 5,000 bedkits to children in Pune, India. The children live in the region of Belapur, which is about three hours outside the city, and they arrived with their families from a number of neighboring villages on the distribution day.

To measure the impact of the bedkits over the next year, SCAW’s Debbie Dryden is tracking the school attendance of the 480 children who received the bedkits funded by the ASMF grant. She is going to compare her findings with their school attendance in the six months prior to receiving the bedkits.

“I’m continuing to be in contact with one of the teachers who teaches the grant kids, and together we’re tracking the attendance of all those students,” Dryden wrote. “Your grant has given our organization the opportunity to reflect more closely upon the impact of sleep and think about the challenges that we face in quantifying what we do.”

Read more about the Pune distribution at http://www.scaw.org/pdf/pune_2012.pdf.