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People and Places

Maria Macnamara - Talking Pants...

There is nothing small about what Maria Macnamara has achieved. Maria participated in a series of volunteer holidays visiting places such as Brazil and Ethiopia. She wanted to do a little more than just visit orphanages. Back in 2009 she read an article about the problems and difficulties women and children faced in Zimbabwe due to not having underwear, and it was this that spurred an incredible reaction in Maria. The intention was to do a one-off collection with a target of 2000 pairs but the idea snowballed and 5 years later, Maria has collected over 102,000 pairs of pants and bras. These were distributed to the needy in Kenya and Uganda and the outcome was phenomenal.

The charity based in West Lothian, Scotland is 'Small and beautifully formed...'

Maria created Smalls for All as a charity in 2010. Underwear was really just the start to what has become an effective and fantastic way of helping women and children in Africa meet their most basic hygiene and security needs.

Maria speaks from the heart when she recalls how it all started: "I remembered a priest in Zimbabwe speaking about the lack of underwear and the problems this can cause. Not only is it a health and hygiene problem for many poor African communities, as women often only own one pair of tattered pants or have none at all, but underwear is also seen as a status symbol and offers a degree of security. Women who can afford underwear tend to be seen as having someone who cares for them – a husband, brother or father. They are not on their own so they are not seen as vulnerable."

Maria goes on to tells us how today, Smalls for All and their supporters help to collect and distribute underwear, both new pants and new or gently worn bras, to women and children in Africa, Sierra Leone, Malawi, Kenya and Madagascar through Freedom from Fistula and to Kenya for Kenya's Children's Home. Maria even takes underwear to Uganda, Kenya and Malawi during her holidays. Other organisations contact her and request underwear for their projects, people who are then visiting their projects will take the underwear with them.

Owing to the success of the charity and lack of room in her own garage, Maria had to open a new storage facility and gave it the name the pantagon.

It is a common concern with charities to get the foreign assistance and so Small for All works with other carefully selected charitable organisations and NGOs who are trying to improve the health and security, and restore the dignity, of women and children in Africa. They support grassroots, sustainable projects with local ownership and aim to put people in a better economic and social position.

When Maria set up Smalls it was simply in response to a real need, over time this has extended from providing underwear to paying for the education of children. The mission continues: "I'm all about pants, education and pads! I've been looking at sanitary towels for a while as it bothers me girls miss school at the time of the month, they then miss so much they can drop out of school simply for the lack of being able to manage their period. I would love to provide pads and pants to see if this can improve attendance."

The Riviera Woman wishes to support this most amazing charity and as part of our relaunch we have decided to start our own local collections using a local network. We believe this to be a pant-astic charity, and we look forward to supporting and continuing the great work started by Maria Macnamara, by creating our own local based Knicker Box.

www.smallsforall.org

Facebook/SmallforAll

Thursday, 1 October 2015    Section: People and Places
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