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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.

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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.