Well it’s been a good few months since I last wrote, so here I am, sat with a coffee (who would have thought a tea addict would become a coffee convert?!), attempting to articulate the swirls of thoughts that have been occupying my mind. For some reason, knowing where to start has been the hardest thing.
This has been a strange season, one primarily involving the relaunching of the sanitary pad project, EVERY GIRL. My feelings in this season have been confused, mixed and complicated. I am a chronic over thinker, so I guess this shouldn’t be a surprise! Seriously, if Olympic medals were awarded for over thinking, and how many angles you can consider an issue, I’d be up there in one of the top three spots!
Throughout my life, I have been following a structured plan. I’ve been in different stages of education, followed by a three year spell in the NHS where I got to use my own initiative but also followed strict guidelines and protocols. Everything we did, rightly so, had a strict lay out, a strict routine, an evidence based approach to deliver the best possible care.
I knew before I arrived in Mbale that it would be different here. I remember chatting with a colleague as I was preparing to leave the UK, asking her what I’d exactly be doing, and I received the response that she wasn’t able to tell me, and that although JENGA could help guide me, it would be for me to see how I felt my skill set could best be used here. I remember at the time being frustrated by this, but the truth is, there’s huge freedom in that. I so love that JENGA allows me the freedom to work alongside existing projects and to see, with their guidance, where I might be able to be the most useful and helpful and for their support in that journey.
But the truth is, it scares me too! As much as I hate to admit it, there’s safety in protocols and guidelines. It means that the way ahead has been thought through, considered, scientifically tested, and been found to be the best possible route, the best solution.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lot of fun. I’m a dreamer and love thinking through different problems and seeing if I can think of a solution. When I heard how many problems surround menstrual health management here, I loved talking through different options with my managers. It meant that instead of just hearing people’s stories, which spoke of huge inequality and injustice, that I could think about doing something practical, something which even as a drop in a vast ocean, could hopefully have some positive effects on those I met. Something that could attempt to start to think about rectifying the imbalance, or even just bring attention to it.
But then it became more real, the snowball began. I shared the vision, and people so kindly bought into it and shared it with me. People like you, who so generously gave me ideas, provided a sounding board to think through different options, prayed and so generously donated. Please know that I so appreciate whatever part you have played and continue to play in that. I am so so grateful!
But it also meant that now I had to start. The first thirty training packs were put together before Christmas, ready for me to bring back samples to the UK for donors to see. The first training sessions were arranged. It was no longer a thought and a vision, but also a reality.
The snowball started to grow and gain momentum!
When people buy into the project, support it in so many different ways, it is hugely humbling and encouraging and I am so grateful. I do not want this to sound in any way like I do not appreciate the support. I do, more than you know. But I also feel responsible for your investment, whatever that is and has been. I want to be a good steward of your donations, encouragements and prayers. I want the best possible outcome.
And now, the snowball is growing ever bigger, momentum gaining ever faster. In seven weeks, we have trained 179 volunteers in five locations or organisations. It’s exciting and it’s encouraging but its also scary too. There are no protocols or guidelines already set that we can follow, no scientifically tested methods. Instead we write these as we go along, through trial and error, based on ideas, discussions with managers and those we intend to reach. It’s been a time of learning that this is ok. A time of realising when speaking to so many who have invested in this project, that you knew that this was the case. That this is what you expected when you joined the vision. I’m so grateful for your understanding and grace!
So for now we wait. We wait with excitement to see the results. We continue to train in different locations and with different organisations, in faith that it will work and we wait for the big reveal:
Do the volunteers continue to teach girls and women in their communities after we leave? If so, how many do they train? Do the girls and women like the pads and are they effective? Do they continue to make the pads and teach others to do the same?