Mary Jane Alex gives a talk on hygiene to girls in Uganda
By UAF board member Mary Jane Alex
Who knew a simple pair of cotton underwear could make such a big difference?
Girls in Uganda often do not go to school for parts of each month. Many drop out altogether because they lack the feminine products we often take for granted here.
Periods are not a priority.
As a medical professional, I believe the workings of the human body are pretty darn cool. I don’t want any girl to be ashamed of or limited by the biology that makes them a woman.
When I signed up to travel with Medical Missions Foundation to Uganda last fall, I started thinking about a project to get involved with.
I knew I would be working in the clinic doing Malaria testing but I wanted to do something more.
I saw the postings on Facebook about crayons and toys and dresses for cute little kids, all great and wonderful donations!
But, my mind went to the teenage girls. Was there something we could do for them?
UAF board member and Uganda mission director, Abby Hayo, sent me a link to a product called Afripads.
Wow. I had no clue there was such a thing as reusable pads and they were made right there in Uganda.
But… girls must have underwear to use them. In Uganda, girls often don’t even own one pair.
UAF donated the first $500.00 and we were on our way to making every day of the month a good one for many Ugandan girls.
Then, other volunteers with the medical mission got to work in their respective communities collecting hundreds of pairs underwear, soap and washcloths. They even named the effort, “Rounding Up Undies”.
I am thrilled to say my co-workers at New York Presbyterian Hospital joined people from various companies and nonprofits to donate underwear, bars of soap and over $2,000 in cash.
Afripads only cost $4.00 and can be washed and re-used for up to a year. The goal was to buy 100 Afripads, but we ended up purchasing 600 kits to help girls in Uganda and the country of Mali as well.
Even though I knew they were needed, I didn’t realize what a huge hit the Afripads would be. The girls were so thankful, telling me they could now run, jump and play without fear of accidents or the boys laughing at them!
We gave a simple product that all young women deserve to live with dignity and health; they gave us poems, songs and a lot of ovations.
The joy on their faces was a gift to me.
I’m proud of this program and want to thank everyone who helped for your support. Another great example of United Aid Foundation partnering with people and organizations all over the world.
This time we are keeping young women healthy, safe and in school. What could be better than that?
Note: Medical Missions Foundation will return to Uganda next month. Volunteers are “rounding up undies” again this year.