It has been a while since any update has been made on the Reproductive Health project but that’s not because it has been dormant… anything but! Seamstresses have been busy on both sides of the globe, a container has been floating its way across the ocean and we have been making connections for presentations as well as teaching opportunities.
Betty and three other ladies have been hired as the ISEE Sewing Cooperative to make pads and bags locally for our kits. As our goal was to distribute 1000 kits between December 2013 and July 2014, we have asked Betty’s team to make 1000 bags and 8000 pads! We have already received close to 4000 pads and she is busily making more. ISEE purchased a new Babylock (serger) machine for the cooperative to help make the pad production more efficient. Turning and sewing all those edges would have been a nightmare. We thank Betty and the other ladies for their dedication to the project and for helping us empower girls and women to remain in school.
When Bree travelled to Uganda in December, she arrived with just over 500 shields and Ziploc bags. We made up kits and headed to Lira and Lamwo to teach and distribute these kits. These were our first kits with the locally sewn components included. We distributed 300 kits while we were in these two communities and the ladies asked us to come back and teach them how to make the kits.
The ladies in Canada have been incredibly productive in the last few months. Since we are hoping to distribute 1000 kits, that means we need 2000 shields. The shields are the fiddliest piece of the kit because they need 5 pieces of fabric, have to be turned inside out, and then need snaps. My Mum is coming to visit in April and is bringing over 1000 shields! WOW! That is amazing. That will make another 500+ kits bringing our total to 750 kits that have been prepared. Then we hope that Ellen, the VP of ISEE, will come in June and bring yet more shields for the kits. The target of 1000 kits in 8 months is looking more attainable than I had hoped for.
But wait! There’s more. A Girl Guides group from Vernon (I believe and please correct me if I’m wrong) has made some complete kits for distribution. This past week we drove past the headquarters for Guides and Scouts Uganda so I hope to pop in there on Wednesday to meet and talk about our presentations. It would be great to connect the two organizations across the globe.
We are also immensely grateful to Rotary World Network and associated Rotary clubs in Kelowna and Vancouver for shipping kits and supplies from Vancouver to Kampala. That has been an exercise in patience with all the hoops required for jumping and I only had to pick the items up! I know how frustrating it can be to get a container cleared in Uganda and I commend the patience of the Rotary members from Canada and the people involved in Uganda. An extra big thank you to Gisela for sewing kits and collecting donations of fabric then managing to get it all to Vancouver in time. That’s another 48 kits for us to add to our number.
We have not been able to source PUL in Uganda. When the ladies ask us to teach them how to make the kits, we tell them that we would be happy to but that the waterproof liner for the shields is not accessible here. It is important that PUL be used and not plastic bags because the shields need to be breathable. Think about wearing a good quality rain jacket vs wearing a plastic poncho. The poncho prevents any air from flowing through and makes you all hot and sweaty. Not ideal for a sanitary pad.
Gisela and Linda from Kelowna managed to include PUL in the shipment from Vancouver and another lady from California heard about our work and brought 6 yards of PUL for us to use. One yard makes about 30 shields so with the 30 yards, we can make 900 shields so 450 kits. While that does not make an unlimited amount and the project can’t sustain itself because the PUL can’t be sourced (or not yet), at least the women can learn to make the kits and who knows… maybe they will find a fabric that can be used instead. Maybe the raincoats that are on the market could be used. These ladies are nothing if not amazingly resourceful.
Corey, my Mum and I will hopefully go to Lira to teach the women there how to make the kits in April. We will have a small group to teach and we will leave them with enough supplies to make 25 kits each. When Ellen is here, we will offer the same training to the ladies in Lokung, Lamwo district, so that they too can learn and make the kits to sell or give to the ladies in the community.
One last development is that Corey is creating a Health and Hygiene presentation for boys in primary school to talk about puberty and how to keep clean. He has tested it out on one group and is working on getting a training manual together to put on the website for others to use. The boys are often curious about the girls’ presentation and want to listen in through the window. If we can have a presentation for boys running concurrently, that will make everyone happy!
There are other thank yous that must be extended:
A big thank you to Ziploc that has donated over 1000 bags for our project.
Thank you, thank you, thank you to Andrew, our program coordinator in Uganda, who has donated his Wednesdays to fold pads, cut soap and pack kits as well as to finding schools and clubs in which to present.
Thank you to Linda Kramer, the amazing woman who is the founder of Days for Girls Kelowna who has been coordinating all the ladies and their sewing talents.
Thank you again to everyone making components of the kits for us. We couldn’t be doing what we are doing without you doing what you are doing!!!