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What your donations mean to people

Smalls for All® partners with Freedom from Fistula Foundation and Kenya Children’s Homes to reach some of the people who need underwear the most. Returning from a trip to Sierra Leone, Paul McNeil (who works for both organisations) shared his thoughts on the value of what we do, and what your donations of underwear mean to the people who receive them.

“Many people might think, ‘What’s the big deal with sending underwear to Africa?’ However, I can personally attest to the power of pants!” says Paul.

“We see many women and children who literally come to us with nothing. Many of the fistula patients we treat come to us wearing clothes that we have to burn because they’re so filthy. These are women who, through no fault of their own, have experienced prolonged labour, lost their babies as a result of this, and then found themselves incontinent – sometimes through both bladder and bowel (urine and faeces).

“They’ve had to discard much if not all of their own underwear because of the damage caused by this incontinence, and are often using matted rags in instead. The fortunate few who still have ‘underwear’, have to give it up when we bring them into our hospitals due to its unhygienic condition. So, when they’ve gone through successful surgical repair for their fistula, there’s nothing better than being able to give that woman a full set of clothing to go home in – which has to include some new underwear. Seeing their face light up, not only because they’re dry again but because they have clothing that helps to make them feel like a human, is a joyful sight.

“The impact of providing underwear is far greater than just handing over something that we very much take for granted.

“In a similar way, distributing kids’ underwear to our orphaned boys and girls is always a fun activity. The kids love to be able to pick their favourite colours, and you’d be surprised quite how proud a 5-year-old boy can be of his new spider-man pants!

“We’ll always have a need for underwear across our sites in Kenya, Malawi, Sierra Leone and Madagascar. And due to the generosity of Smalls and their donors, we sincerely hope we’ll continue to have a ‘pipeline of pants’.”

In 2019 we changed our constitution to also support those in the UK who have a need for underwear. Some of our pants now go to supporting people through, for example, school uniform banks, refugee centres, and charities and organisations that support the homeless.

Dundee International Women’s Centre (DIWC) supports migrants and refugees with health, social and educational needs as they settle into Dundee. Contacting Smalls on behalf of DIWC, Emma Wilson of NHS Tayside Public Health reported that, “Some migrant and refugee women living in our community here in Dundee are facing numerous barriers in accessing personal hygiene items, including underwear. Without meeting this need there are risks to the mental wellbeing, dignity and personal hygiene of these women, many of whom are not financially independent or have competing financial expenses. Thank you to everyone at Smalls for All for partnering with us to address an impact of Covid-19 that risked being hidden and unaddressed.” As part of an ongoing collaboration, NHS Tayside Public Health works in partnership with DIWC to address the health needs and inequalities where they exist within the Dundee migrant community. 

Salma Hanif Gani, Family Learning Project Worker at DIWC, says, “I wanted to say a big thank you for your kind support for the vulnerable families that come to our Women’s Centre, it is difficult times for many just now. All at Dundee International Women’s Centre are so grateful to Smalls for All. It means a lot to the women who find it difficult to ask for help regarding these items.”

The Bethany Christian Trust focuses on relieving the suffering and meeting the long-term needs of homeless and vulnerable people in Scotland. On receiving 600 pairs of pants for people in its Rapid Re-accommodation Welcome Centre, manager Ruth Longmuir said, “We were delighted to receive this generous donation of pants from Smalls for All which will directly benefit our guests at the Welcome Centre. Clean underwear is something that most people take for granted but is far from certain for many people who are homeless.”

The Edinburgh School Uniform Bank aims to promote pride, dignity and self-esteem in children from families experiencing financial hardship. “Packs of new school uniform including pants are given out to families referred to us by other services, including school and social services,” operations coordinator Johanna Wesemann told us. “By providing good quality school uniform and other important clothing such as pants, we can ensure children living in poverty can attend school without stigma.”