Frequently Asked Questions
1. WHY REUSABLE PADS?
In many parts of the world buying disposable pads is not a viable option for women and girls. Menstrual pads are too expensive - a typical family can make as little as $1.00 per day and one package of pads can cost $1.00. Disposal is often impossible due to lack of garbage removal.
2. HOW DID THIS PROJECT START?
Two American volunteers in Zimbabwe (Denise Stasik and Heidi Ricks) noticed that girls were using whatever they could find to help deal with their menses. Denise gave a talk to The Women's Global Giving Circle in Saratoga Springs New York in 2010 about this issue and Ellie von Wellsheim happened to be there that day.
Denise Stasik wrote: "This need was brought to my attention in an odd way when I was working in Zimbabwe. During our feast day, a sudden wind sent our paper and plastic bags swirling across the sand. Quickly, young children jumped up and ran to retrieve them. Rather than returning to our table, the children ran towards their homes, carrying the bags with them, big smiles on their faces. I asked an elder woman what was happening. She explained that young women often cannot leave their homes for one week each month while they have their period, as they have no hygienic products. They use whatever they or their children can find – mixtures of dirt and grass, newspaper, plastic bags. They must wash and save these things to reuse month to month. Not only are these materials irritating to the skin, they are unsanitary and can lead to dangerous infections. In addition, we learned that most women could not afford the equivalent of $1 US per pad when the daily wage, if any, was often less than $1.00 US per day. If the cost alone is not prohibitive, the disposal of these products is. There is no weekly garbage pick-up. There are no garbage cans for disposal of waste."
Ellie, having grown up in her father's sewing factory, has been around fabrics, sewing machines and pattern making since she was a little girl. She's had a sewing business herself and knew she could streamline the production of the reusable pad she saw that day and find people here in the US to make it. With Denise's blessing she set to work and founded the MoonCatcher Project. The Project has made an impact in over 15 countries around the world and supports six sewing guilds in Africa. We have also assisted partner organizations to start two other guilds in Africa.
The pattern has changed over time with input from Ellie's daughter who frequently tested the pad. Also design changes have occurred with input from many African girls. Today the pads comes in a kit with a waterproof bag for the used pads along with a drawstring bag to carry everything. It is distributed with a menstrual management and reproductive health curriculum so that girls understand what is happening to their bodies and can chart their cycles. This year we are hoping to add soap and a washcloth to each kit.
3. WHO USES THESE PADS?
Girls who want to stay in school and otherwise wouldn't be able to do so during their periods.
4. Where have our pads gone?
The MoonCatcher Project has sent pads to countries all over the world. For a full list, see our map, which lists all of the countries we have shipped menstrual kits to.
5. WHAT ARE THE PADS MADE OF?
The carrier is made of flannel in the U.S. but may be made of cotton in other countries, with a piece of Tyvek between the layers. Tyvek is a brand of flashspun high-density polyethylene fibers that provides a waterproof barrier (Tyvek envelopes can be found at any U.S. Post Office).
All parts are washable, and the pad itself is made of highly absorbent and soft bamboo or fleece fabric. We include a waterproof bag for used pads that is made of ripstop nylon and a drawstring bag made of cotton-like material that holds all the supplies. The final product looks like this.
6. WHAT HAPPENS AT A MOONCATCHER MOONBEE?
Volunteers gather to sew, cut, iron, turn and assemble the pads. We sit together and talk as our women ancestors did during old-fashioned sewing bees. Everyone is welcome and there are jobs for everyone, even if you have no sewing skills.
7. WHO CAN PARTICIPATE IN A MOONBEE SEWING BEE?
Anyone! Women, men and children all participate.
8. DO WOMEN IN AFRICA ALSO MAKE MOONCATCHER KITS?
Yes. We have five sewing guilds in Uganda, one in Malawi and another is being developed in Kenya and will open soon. We try to buy supplies locally whenever possible in each of the countries where guilds are in operation. Supporting the local economy and working to make this project sustainable is very important to The MoonCatcher Project.
In other countries in Africa and around the world we send cut supplies or patterns for people to make our kits. We also send as many finished kits as possible with volunteers traveling to countries all over the world.
9. HOW DO I GET ON THE MAILING LIST?
Send your email address to email@example.com or sign up at a sewing bee (also known as a MoonBee), or click this link to sign up online.
10. ARE THERE OTHER PAD PROJECTS?
Yes, other organizations make pads of different designs. We mostly make pads for women and girls who don't wear underwear, so our design is a bit different than any of these other designs. Underwear is a luxury item in many countries, and not affordable to many of the girls that we serve. Of course if a girls has underwear she can wear it over our pad for a little added security.
11. DO THESE KITS REALLY MAKE A DIFFERENCE?
Yes. These pads help keep menstruating girls in school. Without them, girls often miss school during the week of their cycle, and when they fall too far behind in their studies they drop out of school altogether - losing control of their lives and their dreams.
12. IS THE MOONCATCHER PROJECT A 501(c)(3)?
The MoonCatcher Project, Inc. is a nonprofit organization incorporated under the laws of the State of New York. The Internal Revenue Service has determined that the organization is a tax-exempt public charity under Internal Revenue Code Sections 501(c)(3) and 170(b)(1)(A)(vi). Contributions to the organization are tax deductible, and the organization's federal identification number is 47-2987115.
13. HOW DO I MAKE A FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTION?
Please click here or on any of the "Donate Now" buttons on any of the pages of this website. OR Donate money by making a check out to:
The MoonCatcher Project
Schenectady, NY, 12309
Please contact Ellie if you have a question that has not been answered here. (firstname.lastname@example.org)