Just like most of you, I’ve read C4C newsletters for years. Mesmerized by the pictures, vicariously proud of distant success stories, I look forward to hearing updates of children C4C has followed over time. Usually, I send my donation and then tuck the newsletter away. But this year was different. After hearing about Zimbabwe, Tsungirirai and C4C for so long, I finally took the plunge and volunteered myself to travel with Liz this past August.
My primary focus during our trip was to help develop the “Pads Project”. We had learned that disposable feminine hygiene products were often prohibitively expensive. With videos and patterns shared by the company Lunapads and materials provided by discretionary funds of C4C, our goal was to teach girls how to sew their own reusable cloth pads. Our suspicion that the project would be appealing to the community was immediately confirmed- every woman I spoke with was quick to point out the economic and hygienic advantages of a reusable, washable product.
In nursing and medical training there is an adage- “See one, do one, teach one,” and our project followed in a similar spirit. The ten camp leaders were able to watch a video on how to make the pads, then were provided the materials and guidance to sew their own. A few days later at camp, these leaders were then responsible for teaching their younger teammates how to make the pads. The project began to take a life of its own, with a plan to start an income-generating effort to create and market these pads in the Norton community. Lorraine (a C4C scholar) submitted the winning proposal of “Women’s Pride Washable Pads.” A motto quickly followed- “Real Pads for Real Women.”
I am very proud of the momentum that has continued with the project, and am confident that it will succeed. I love that it highlights the opportunity for people to help themselves in a small but tangible way, and that the instinct of most people I encountered was how to share this with others, rather than keep it for themselves. This instinct is amazing to me given how few resources most Zimbabweans have.
It has taken me weeks, if not months, to process what I learned in Zimbabwe. I was overwhelmed by the poverty and lack of sanitation. When the pain medicine runs out at camp, then, well, tough luck. Since returning to the US, I have learned more about Zimbabwe’s reversal of fortune over the past 20 years. It now rates dead last in per capita income for all nations tracked by the United Nations.1 I apologize for ending with such a depressing statistic, but I don’t think you can truly envision the beacon of hope that C4C provides until you understand the backdrop of these children’s lives. The kids I spoke with didn’t want toys or PlayStations (OK, they probably wouldn’t have turned them down, either), but they asked for tuition, books, and for pens. THESE are the realities for the children at Tsungirirai, and after having seen their lives up close I am even more proud to be a C4C supporter.
-written by Bridget McBride after her trip to ZImbabwe in August, 2010
To learn more about how you can support this project, click here.
To see a video of some of the girls talking about the pad project click below. Some parts are in English, some parts are in Shona, and some are “Shonglish.”