Since June 2015, Nicole & Ian Richardson have been taken on a journey which has seen their hearts moved to action. Having seen countless teenage girls missing out on their education because something as fundamental as sufficient sanitary products, and having seen girls resorting to prostitution to help pay for supplies, they decided to do what they could. Here is the story of how 25ZERO began. In June 2016 I flew over the waters to arrive in the rural district of Rukungiri in western Uganda. I was volunteering for two weeks with a Mission Direct team. You can read more about my trip and Mission Direct on our Schudio blog page. Whilst the team spent an evening sorting aid that we had brought with us, I noticed a couple had huge amounts of sanitary packs. I asked why they had so many. I was told that they had seen a documentary before coming to Rukungiri about girls there who sold their bodies for sex so that they could afford sanitary towels. I was horrified and this affected me deeply. The following November, Ian was preparing to leave for his trip to Rukungiri. At our church I made a request for sanitary towels and girls underwear donations. This resulted in Ian taking what could be mistaken for a body bag, full of 2,500 towels.
As Ian was travelling the long dust road hours from Entebbe to Rukungiri he found himself sat next to Alan, Mission Direct’s CEO. “What on earth do you have in that bag?” Was the intrigued question Alan asked Ian. Ian explained what was in the bag and why. As they chatted Alan told Ian that this isn't a unique issue. Girls all over the world are missing 25% of their education because they do not have the means to allow them to stay in school during their monthly period. We have a son who has just finished high school in the UK and two more still there. We are told that to lose even 10% attendance can have a big impact on your ability to learn, exam results and being part of the school community. My son had time off due to an operation and hit 85% one year. A red alert came up at school and we were contacted with concern for his education. For so many girls, missing 25% of their education can mean either they give up and stop going, become pregnant whilst trying to pay for the means to be able to attend (which means they'll have to leave anyway), or fail their exams. The result is a never ending cycle of uneducated girls in Rukungiri and the hope of a life lived in poverty. So, Ian and Alan got creative with ideas and names for a project to support these girls. Some of which, as a woman, I binned! There were some that we brainstormed out though. Bottom line is our heart is to make the 25% of education loss ZERO. Let’s ensure these girls have every opportunity to succeed in their dreams for their’s and their families future. After some research Ian and i decided the best long term fix would be to supply and educate the girls in using Mooncups.
I contacted Dr Shannon Irvine. Shannon is an inspirational woman who dreams big and makes things happen. She is the Founder of Mosaic Vision Ministries in Rukungiri, a charity that finds sponsors for AID victim orphans. I had met her team that work in country in Rukungiri and knew they would be perfect for helping to educate the girls out there for using the Mooncups. Shannon was excited to partner with us and have her team help get things off the ground. Rukungiri has become Ian’s second home and he was there again in June this year. He met with the Mosaic team and explained in detail what our dream is. The team were very excited and totally on board. The only spanner in the works is that there is a cultural demand that a girl's hymen must be intact when chosen for marriage. So for girls that had been pregnant and married female teachers, Mooncups were a go. Not though for the majority of girls though. Panic ye not! We quickly came across a woman who makes reusable pads for refugees and African countries who can supply us with what we need. Prayers answered. We were committed to finding a solution that worked well. A solution that was sustainable long term. It also had to be affordable. We believe this will work in Rukungiri and then once running and working we can make a difference with 25ZERO in other countries too. We had guessed there were maybe about 3,500 girls in the Rukungiri district. No problem we thought. The actual number, 42,000!!! Daunting? Yes. Achievable? Absolutely. Read how you can dream with us and make this is achievable in my next post.