Dear Donors, Friends and Families:
Greetings from PridePads Africa. We hope you are safe and healthy during these unprecedented times. Our community remains strong and committed to the important work we have begun, and we wanted to thank you for your continued support of our efforts. We are excited to share some updates with you about the PridePads Africa project here in the United States and on the ground in Cameroon.
Much has changed over the last six months and yet much remains the same. The world has come to a virtual stand-still, but periods do not stop, not even during pandemics. That is why our work is more important now than ever. During any crisis, women and girls suffer more than their male counterparts and this knowledge alone has emboldened our mission. The pandemic has disrupted access to sanitary pads for girls and women as they are more likely to be spending time at home due to school closures and social distancing guidelines.
In late March, we made the difficult decision to temporarily close our facility in Ngaoundere, Northern Cameroon until the Government deems it safe for our employees to return to work. Schools and other organizations remain closed while the pandemic is ongoing. We hope to resume manufacturing in mid-October when the schools are scheduled to re-open. We are committed to the health and safety of our employees and we will continue to assess the situation as it develops.
Despite the pandemic, over the course of the last ten months we have accomplished a lot of work. In December 2019, we became a registered 501(c)(3) in the United States and an NGO in Cameroon which allows us to operate in both countries. Since that time, we have worked hard to expand our project to accomplish all that is needed for our success in Africa. Our all-volunteer Board of Directors meets weekly and is currently seeking new fund-raising opportunities and corporate partnerships including seeking grants from local Rotary clubs and businesses that can support our work on an ongoing basis.
Prior to receiving our 501(c)(3) status, we started raising funds and placed an order for our first sanitary pads machine from Aakar Innovations, in Navi Mumbai, India. As a nascent organization we had to address logistical issues related to having the machine shipped from India to Africa, as well as working through the customs process. Once the machine cleared customs, we had it transported by rail and then by truck to our facility in Ngaoundere. The machine was assembled, and our staff were trained by an employee of Aakar Innovations who flew over from India and we began manufacturing pads in January 2020.
In July 2019, while we were working on our 501(c)(3) status, we hired Derek Gerleit, a recent graduate of the University of Colorado, to be the Director of Operations in Cameroon. Derek was tasked with opening the PridePads Africa facility and getting all operations in motion. He managed all aspects of the project including the logistics of getting the machine to Cameroon from India and making our facility a community gathering place, workplace and his residence.
Derek assimilated into the local community and filed the necessary documents to establish PridePads Africa as a local business. He interviewed and hired 10 women to work at our facility and taught them how to make the pads. He coordinated with local schools and other governmental agencies to create relationships and laid the foundation that will eventually allow us to provide sanitary pads and menstrual hygiene education to several schools in the area.
In mid-February, Derek returned home to the United States for a family wedding and his travel back to Africa became impossible due to the pandemic. We decided that it was time to hire a local Cameroonian woman to run the project now that the ground work had been laid and it was obvious that Derek would not be able to return to Cameroon anytime soon.
In early August, Mrs. Salamatu Yinyuy, a local Cameroonian woman who is a community organizer, educator and entrepreneur began her position as Director of PridePads Africa. We are so fortunate to have Salamatu working for PridePads Africa and know that with her experience and expertise we will continue to achieve great things for girls and women in Ngaoundere.
Last year we raised over $50,000, and while we are excited about the momentum we gained during that time, we have a lot to do to ensure that we can continue the important work we began before the Covid-19 pandemic started. Please join us in our efforts to continue manufacturing Pride Pads in Cameroon, ensuring that our menstrual hygiene education programs and girls and women livelihood empowerment succeed. We could not do this important work alone and we believe that we are stronger when we work together for the greater good of all people. Thank you for your donations, support, and for seeing the importance of this mission. Girls are the key to helping Africa rise up and keeping them in school is the most important strategy to fulfill this mission.
PridePads Africa Board of Directors and Volunteers