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Preparing A Sewing Workshop in Tanzania

Fundi doing the Project Kidogo sewing machine setup, Mya watching Tanzania Tabora

Preparing a sewing workshop in Tanzania was one of our first goals on reaching Tabora on Wednesday. We landed after a short hop from Dar Es Salaam on a little Air Tanzania plane with ten bits of luggage (having lost my own suitcase). Hakun, myself and two small children meeting up with Mya and Deus. The kids were excited to meet our their new friends, Deus’s children, that afternoon at the lodge where we’re staying and Hakun and I were keen to unpack.

Our Luggage

Right now we have four suitcases piled in the corner of our lodge with a thousand pairs of knickers for the school kits, armfuls of fabric, fleece, cotton, ripstop nylon and towels and ten maroon overlocker thread cones. We brought with us one pair of pinking shears and a rotary cutter, 100 little binder clips for securing fabric, thousands of KAM snaps and pliars as well as seam rippers for making the most of preloved clothes and towels.

luggage for Tanzania
luggage for Tanzania in our Picasso

Hakun’s suitcase arrived in tact with his 200 bamboo toothbrushes, “zawadi” (gifts) he bought for local children and some of the sunblock we bought for the family and his basic clothes and toiletaries. Our children’s suitcase made it too, with lots of small hats and practical shoes. Mine did not make the journey. So I’m here with just the clothes I was wearing on the internal flight and the laundry from our three nights in Dar Es Salaam, and my hand luggage. We’ve been to the Air Tanzania offices to try to track this suitcase down and, although they were pretty helpful, it looks like we didn’t check mine in despite arriving with it. We’re trying to get in touch with the airport security, but I’m sure it’s mostly replaceable (apart from the sunblock). If living here before has taught me one thing, it’s the art of adapting to living with less and in preparing a sewing workship in Tanzania means being flexible. We managed to get sim cards at the airport and Hakun’s is working ok, mine took a little pursuading and a new cable. So here we have a few photos!

Preparing a Sewing Worskhip in Tanzania

Although we’re a secular/non-religeous NGO we’ve been very welcomed by the Anglican Church and we’re grateful for the accommodation here. Yesterday afternoon we bought two sewing machines – a heavy manual Butterfly which are very popular and well-loved here in Tanzania, and a new electric overlocker imported to Tabora from India. We’ve set the machines up in my bedroom for the time being so Mya and I can practice. With the maroon overlocker thread cones and any polyester thread we can get here, we’re going to set up initially making some fabric bags.

In June 2019 the Tanzanian government put an immediate ban on plastic bags throughout the country! Vendors, “duka” (shops) and every business and person in the country had to hand over all plastic bags immediately and invest in reusable bags. This has had a great impact already on the amount of plastic waste in Tanzania although sadly, the fabric reusable alternatives are nylon fabric slightly more durable than the fabric of disposable nappies, and I can’t imagine will last all that well. We visited a fish market in Dar Es Salaam as part of a tour of the city and I could see sellers these flimsy plastic-fabric bags and large manilla envelopes being used for wet things and I hope the people here start to develop some waterproof plant-based alternatives like the corn “plastic” bags we use to line food bins in the UK. There’s a huge opportunity for investment there that would do so much for the environment and the Tanzanian people. Our plan is to use some inexpensive cotton vitenge fabric to start producing some cotton totes which will help Mya to hone her sewing skills and start to generate a little income for Project Kidogo.

Using the sewing machine and overlocker to make fabric totes will be really helpful for our future sewing interns and apprentices. With the help of volunteers we’ll provide them with the marketable skills to be able to generate an income and contribute to the local economy. We’re going to create a sewing workshop with lots of natural light, electricity and good security where the workers can come and feel safe and comfortable. As each sewer’s ability improves they can start to make pads which they can sell locally using subsidised fabric, and we can purchase pads from them for the menstrual kits we will distribute to the teens in schools in the district. We hope to view workshops in the next few weeks so that we can prepare the space ready to move in before I leave. If you might be able to help with a regular monthly donation for the workshop or to help with a few months’ rent then please email and we’ll be very grateful. One-off donations towards fabrics, as well as soap and bowls for the kits are also desperately needed and you can send us money on PayPal here

If you want to be involved in any way with the charity, whether it’s by holding a cloth menstrual pad sewing workshop, other fundraising events such as bake sales or even climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, please let us know here or on our Facebook page or DM us on Instagram

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Why Tanzania?

Tanzanian flag charity work for Project Kidogo menstrual pads

In 2009 my dad passed away from a stroke, leaving everything he had in the world to my sister Anna and I. We sold his car, vintage Scalextric and put his Buckingham house on the market, the most important of his belongings was the workshop full of his beloved carpentry equipment. Our dad was an avid amateur carpenter and had made the most stunning wood carvings, intricate inlaid boxes and beautiful creations with different woods. Dad’s workshop was full of love and care so the small amounts we were offered for the contents made us sad, not because of the low monetary value but because the contents had had such a high value to our dad. We didn’t have room to keep them ourselves so we had to do something.

My half sister’s mum gave us the idea of Tools for Life and we found a charity based in Chesham called Workaid. We got in touch and they were so grateful for the tools and machines we donated. They had to send the van back to refil and lots of volunteers chipped in to clear the workshop, kindly giving Anna and myself some beautiful pieces he’d been partway through making. I told the volunteers I wanted to go to Africa to volunteer and they gave me their leaflet. I called up and asked Workaid if I could help them in some way, to see where these precious tools would end up and arranged a tour of their premises. A few months later I travelled over from Wales and watched in awe as retirees and voluneers worked to carefully recondition the tools and machinery.

In the Workaid office they gave me some of the most important information of my life. I’d researched countries in Africa and East Africa had shined brightly out at me. Workaid asked me lots of questions and I realised I wanted to visit a country that has a lot of hope. Tanzania is one of the world’s most peaceful countries (according to the Institute of Economics and Peace) . In 2018 they were just 17th of 163 countries measured in low militarisation. They told me how friendly the Tanzanians are, how helpful the government are when it comes to aid, how easy the Swahili language is and how stunning people find the countryside. I fell in love with the country and realised I’d grown up with it – Africa by Toto, Disney’s The Lion King, elephants and lions, Kilimajaro and Lake Victoria, the Maasai and giraffes, tanzanite Swahili words and lush verdant grasses – these were all Tanzania. Of course there are countries in Africa I’d love to visit such as Ghana where my sister in law’s from, South Africa, Zambia and of course Kenya to name just a few! I’ve travelled to Morocco and Lanzarote but hopefully next time I’m in Tanzania I’ll get the change to travel to its nearby countries.

Workaid put me in touch with an Oxford-based charity which provides meals and sponsorship to OVC’s (orphans and vulnerable children) in Tabora, Tanzania. I travelled there to the centre of the country in January 2012 with one of their trustees and his wife and immediately felt at home. There was an ease and relaxed attitude from the moment I walked out of arrivals in Dar Es Salaam and the drivers around the airport are so helpful without the pushiness I’d felt in other destinations. When we arrived in Tabora, I made some of the most important friendships of my life including Deus, our Tanzanian director and trustee.

I’m so glad I picked Tanzania as my destination all those years ago and just hope that as a charity we can support the people who need help the most. Just a little (kidogo) help, from Project Kidogo.

To donate, visit or you can set up a monthly donation to

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Questionnaire We Give To Teens

schoolgirl writing questionnaire, Project Kidogo reusable menstrual pad charity

Here is the questionnaire we give to teens in Tanzania such ash schoolgirls, young women living in poverty, recent school leavers. It is to give us some information about their situation and to ask them open questions about their pad useage and to give them the opportunity to provide feedback.

We tell them it’s important not to put their name although we ask for school/district to see how things change in different areas.

1. Age
2. Guardian at home (eg Mum, Grandparent)
3. Location
4. School
5. Did your parents/someone else teach you? Or did you learn from friends?
6. Do you use kanga (folded fabric) or disposable pads or something else for your periods?
7. If you have used disposables, did you buy them or someone else?
8. Do you know how disposables they cost? Are they expensive?
9. If you’ve used disposables do you bury them after or something else?
10. Have you heard about washable pads?
11. Would you use washable pads?
12. What do you think could be any problems for you with washable pads?

Demonstration and gift of kit (if they would like it)
13. Do you think these washable pads would help you attend school more often?
14. Do you have any suggestions for our charity to help people in your situation?

Thank you so much for your feedback and we hope you enjoy your kit.

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Vaccinations for the Kammingas

vaccinations before travelling to Tanzania for charity work

Nikki here with a quick update. It’s just over three weeks till I’m off to Tanzania again along with husband Hakun and their two little ones. The past week has meant vaccinations for all of us so we’re recovering from that with sore arms and the knowledge that we’re a little more protected. Our eldest even asked if she could go back for another injection because she wanted another sticker!

The packing list is pretty well under-way. It’s similar to the list Andi and I made for our March trip but with more kids’ things. Hakun has a beautiful multi-tool and Kindle coming for Father’s Day and his birthday along with some pants our youngest chose for him, but our favourite buy was actually in the Poundshop in Bristol’s The Galleries. Didn’t even realise they sold clothes but we picked up a bunch of things there to help protect our skin from the mozzies in Tabora. My mosquito prevention goes like this in the evenings: quick wash with a flannel before it gets dusky, good spray of DEET (we buy 100% then water it down to 50% with water, giving it a good shake before each use) then an outfit of long cotton/viscose trousers tucked into long fleece socks, and a long sleeved cotton top tucked into the trousers. Some more DEET on the ankles and wrists and a soaked hairband too. We then light some anti-mosquito insence in the bedroom and tuck the nets down. Brush teeth and a little reading whilst the room fumigates then it’s clear in the room. I’ll put the kids in bed with some books and a head torch each so Hakun and I can work uninterrupted in the evenings.

Buying clothes to take seems strange at first but we’ll be leaving most of our things there when we return to the UK – giving away clothes and shoes, storing a few things with our friend Deus, and the trip back will be pretty minimal packing-wise. The trip over will involve a fair amount of stuff as Smalls For All are sending us three huge boxes of knickers for the packs.

Our suitcases will be filled with citronella bands, DEET and ammonia just in case we do get bitten. We’re about as prepared as we can be and so excited to be going out again. The kids are looking forward to seeing new animals and learning a little Swahili. More to follow soon!
Nikki Kamminga
Founder and Trustee

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The Pads – History of Developing The Pattern

Our pads were designed in 2015 by Bec Torrens of Earthshine Luxe, an experienced pad maker. Bec and I were looking at cloth nappies (diapers) and realised that many of the¬†brands out there were in two parts. My own mum used terry nappies on me using an origami-like folding method to create a triangle that’s pinned on the baby then covered in a pair of plastic pants.

plastic wrap and terry nappy (diaper) squares cloth nappies diapers
plastic wrap and terry nappy (diaper) squares

I used them on Ayla and Bastian (with a more modern wrap made of PUL prints and minky¬†fabrics with KAM snaps) then moved onto pre-folds. Prefolds are thicker and smaller rectangles made up of many layers of woven cotton which we would tri-fold and stuff into a pocket wrap. The advantage of stuffing folded fabric into a wrap for me was that they’re easier to clean and dry than all-in-ones. They were always the most in-expensive option too.

prefold insert which is folded in on itself (tri-folded) for maximum absorbency cloth nappy diaper
prefold insert which is folded in on itself (tri-folded) for maximum absorbency

When we looked at taking pads to Tanzania in 2015 we needed to find the option which would be the least expensive to produce, the easiest to sew, the easiest to wash and dry and easy to use and understand. Although all-in-one pads are popular in the UK and the USA, they consist of at least three layers of fabric and are expensive to produce, difficult to sew and take a while to dry. We realised from the nappies that if we could unfold the fabric to wash and dry, it would be quicker and easier. The less time needed to dry the pads, the fewer we need to provide to each child for her monthly needs. They just look like squares and circles of fabric which could be cleaning cloths and they’re more discreet than all in one pads.

The edges are a long curve or straight lines rather than having lots of different tight curves to sew. There are fewer pieces to sew for two wraps and four inserts than there would be for four all-in-one pads. They make better use of the expensive Zorb with minimal wastage and the pattern is very simple.

The Pattern
There’s no official pattern to download but Bec has made it super simple for anyone to follow.

The Sewing
It’s designed to work with an overlocker. I’m sure it would be possible on a sewing machine, but an overlocker/serger will look more professional and achieve more pads in a shorter length of time.