Friday, 25 April 2014

You're doing what!?

Milly with the first few pads
in the tailor's shop.
About a month ago I was sitting at a dining table in Kampala with a hospitable English family I have got to know. I explained what I had come back to  Uganda to do and the daughter of the house, a grown woman who had been in aerospace recruitment, asked me a question that went something like this:

"What made you give up a job as an engineer in the UK aerospace industry so that you could distribute sanitary pads to rural schoolgirls in Northern Uganda?"

It is an excellent question and I laughed loud and long when I heard it. It does seem to be a remarkable change of career. But it also seems to contain an assumption that somehow the aerospace industry is sophisticated, modern and exciting, whilst distributing sanitary pads somehow sounds like a job for a janitor. Be that as it may, that is what I am doing!

After 3 months or so of home leave, including the birth of my third grandchild, Mary Anna, I am living  in the Northern Uganda town of Pader again. The Northern Region is generally poorly developed, has poor communication links and is in recovery from decades of deadly cattle raiding, a brutal rebel insurgency and brutal military responses

Not to speak of a 10% HIV rate and a (Uganda wide) median age of 15 years; there are more children than adults. Thankfully there is peace now but the regional 'post traumatic stress' will take a generation or more to recover from.

I wrote in "Sowing Pads" last December about the problems girls face in education and our small scale and local solution to it. Well now that I am back my task is to continue that work, make it better and if possible inspire a larger NGO to take on and expand it.

The school notice board at the main road.
Last Wednesday, 23rd April, Milly and I visited our first school this year. Pagwari Primary School, which is maybe 10 minutes from town but 5 of these minutes are on a bush track. Milly gave them the talk, I gave them my story of the 4 generations of women and girls who are deeply important to me, moving on to God viewing each girl as important and unique (from Psalm 139). We distributed 4 washable pads, 4 pairs of knickers and one black plastic bag to each of the 64 girls present. 14 were away at an athletics competition and we left things for them too. There were time when the classroom looked like a bazaar but in fact order was never far away.
Distribution time.
4 and 4
It had taken some hard work to get the 280 pads marked, cut and sewn in time (see title picture). Also a day's trip to Lira by Milly (on 'local transpot' i.e. a truck) to buy 94 dozen knickers (enough for 4 schools if we are careful). We now have a 2 week school holiday to prepare for the next few schools.

If you are supporting the project, thanks and well done. Our target this year is 12 schools. But there are more than 12 within easy reach of Pader and it looks like our production rate is satisfactory, so with more support we can extend to reach more schools (at around £2.90 per girl or £200/school). 

If you want to challenge us to extend then please contact the EI UK office, details at Please earmark any donations for 'Northern Uganda, Pads'.

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