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Small and beautifully formed

Smalls for All is a charity set up in 2010 and created following a series of trips to orphanages where founder Maria Macnamara worked as a volunteer.

“Each volunteer trip was a huge learning experience for me and holds lots of memories, not all good. When I first visited Ethiopia I stayed with a host family and worked in an orphanage. I met a little girl called Elsa who was clearly very ill. Like many people would, I felt a real need to take action, perhaps pay for a doctor or even bring her back home for medical attention. I discussed this with one of the Sisters but she told me a doctor had seen Elsa and said she would “expire on the operating table”. So she just lay there waiting to die. Each day I would go to work, wondering if she would still be there.

“When I got home I was always very aware that following my trips, I’d left behind many children who had got used to me and come to rely on me. I was very worried that perhaps I was doing more harm than good by spending two to three weeks with them, then leaving for home. So I realised I needed to do something more sustainable that would have longer-term benefits.

Underwear was just the start

“Then 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.

“And that’s how Smalls for All came to life as a registered charity: to help vulnerable women and children. We have a trustee board of knowledgeable and committed individuals who bring wisdom and clear vision to our cause. We also have the support of many volunteers, without whom we wouldn’t have achieved what we have to date.”

It’s now about more than just pants

Today, Smalls for All and our supporters help to collect and distribute underwear, both new pants and new or gently worn bras, to women and children in Africa who need it most. We help those living in orphanages or IDP camps, as well as those suffering from medical conditions like obstetric fistula. And Smalls is helping to fund the education of 27 children in Kenya and 350 children in Malawi, so they can look forward to a better future. We are continuing to work with other local charitable organisations in Africa to ensure we provide help in a practical and sustainable way.