Since 2008, Bayo Oludaja Joachim, a professor at Northwest Missouri State University, and Dr. Mike Bellamy, a chemistry professor, have dedicated their spare time and resources to the support of two orphanages in Haiti, called House of Hope Haiti.
We Gotchya supports the women of House of Hope by supplying them reusable cotton menstrual pads.
That sounds simple, doesn’t it? Well, when you live in Haiti, not much is simple, especially being a girl living at an orphanage that doesn’t have the kind of private bathroom facilities we are accustomed to in the United States. Girls often miss school when they are on their periods because they lack a reasonable means to manage their flows.
We’re trying to help get the girls to school by sending each menstruating girl a period pack. Each pack includes:
- 3 reusable, cotton winged base pads
- 10 cotton inserts
- Several small, cotton hand clothes
- 2-3 small bars of soap
- Wet/dry bag for changing at school
- Instruction manual in 3 languages
- Lip balm from the Benedictine Convent of Perpetual Adoration
- Period pack bag, donated by Intouch Solutions
The reusable pads largely come from LunaPads, a Canadian company that supports Pads4Girls, an NGO focused on distributing menstrual products around the globe. We Gotchya purchased the majority of the pads, but also some inserts were graciously donated by LunaPads.
And speaking of gracious, a group of women in and around Maryville asked if they could help with this effort, and jumped in to make extra liners and wet/dry bags. Led by NWMSU office manager and resident of Clyde, Missouri, Marla McCrary, these women made additional winged bases and inserts to add to each girl’s supply. During monthly We Gotchya meetings, we share the work of cutting out fabric for the sewers. With a goal of sending each girl a large enough supply for 2 days, that called for each girl to have a minimum of 3 bases and 10 inserts. This assumes that the pads will be immediately soaked when the girls return from school, then washed, then fully dried in the sun.
This is where the instruction manual is critical. Pads should be soaked before washing; they should not be washed with bleach; they should be completely dry, ideally by the sun, before wearing; and they should not be shared. We are sending along some embroidery and needles so that each girl can customize her pads so that they are easily identifiable. All of this must be conveyed on the instruction sheet, in Haitian Creole, French and English. (For comparison, here is the Days For Girls information and instruction sheet in PDF.)
Explaining the products to the girls will be a challenge. We plan to send the products in March of 2019, providing the political demonstrations don’t keep the volunteers away. The goal is to have a representative there for at least a few days to explain the products and help with use and care.
The wet/dry bag is a crucial element as well. The bag allows the girls to take a day’s supply of pads — as well as soap and a small washcloth — to school. Patty Holley, program director at KXCV, Maryville’s NPR affiliate, is making high-quality wet/dry bags for this purpose.
It truly takes a village to help a village, but the entire We Gotchya crew chips in to offer their own personal strengths, and it all just works out!
We will post updates here as this project evolves. If you’d like to participate in any way, please contact us, and we’ll find the best way for you to help.