In 2015, Grand Circle Foundation surveyed their sponsored sites around the world in regards to access to clean water and general sanitation, and the responses were rather alarming. Out of the 81% of sites that responded, we learned that only 14% could rate their water and sanitation as Excellent. Of the remainder, 19% were rated Fair, 38% were Adequate, and 29% were rated Poor. These troubling figures stared members of the Foundation in the face and they immediately decided to take action.

Soon thereafter, the Foundation’s newest initiative was born: WASH, which stands for clean WAter, Sanitation, and Hygiene. The primary goal is to ensure that all schools and villages supported by the Foundation have access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene conditions that meet or exceed local standards.

All over the world, water and sanitation systems were installed, and projects included drilling boreholes (wells), installing water pumps and tanks, providing catchment systems, installing electricity where needed, and supplying toilets. After the initial installations, local communities saw an immediate uptick in their general sanitation and quality of life.

One sanitation and hygiene issue, however, is far more basic—yet no less critical—than plumbing or filtration. During his many trips to Africa, 9-time traveler Craig W. of Lynwood, WA, has learned that women and girls in Zimbabwe are often required to put their lives on hold once a month during menstruation because they lack the proper sanitary supplies. Young girls are forced to stay home from school while they are menstruating because their families cannot afford to buy them sanitary napkins—many families in Zimbabwe live on less than $1 a day whereas a packet of pads costs the equivalent of $5.

Craig W. rallied a group of his friends to sew reusable sanitary pads for girls in Zimbabwe.

Some girls use old rags, paper, or even leaves during this time in place of pads and fall behind in school since those items cannot properly protect them. Something as uncontrollable as biology puts these girls at an immediate disadvantage, so Craig decided to do something about it. After returning home from a recent trip to Africa, he rounded up a group of his friends and set out to make a difference.

The group sewed reusable sanitary pads and teamed up with Grand Circle Foundation to have them distributed in Zimbabwe. The Foundation donated packs of underwear along with the reusable pads since 36% of girls from Matabeleland, Zimbabwe do not even have access to underwear. The kits were handed out to girls in grades six and seven at Jabulani and St. Mary’s Primary Schools near Victoria Falls. A primary healthcare worker assisted with the distribution and delivered a talk to the girls on menstruation, including how to handle it, as well as a demonstration on how to use the reusable pads.

The students were not only grateful for these donations, but they were also excited by the undeniable change they would now experience in their monthly routines. They will now be able to carry on as normal and attend school on a regular basis, giving them a fair shot at passing their yearly examinations and a higher chance at moving onto secondary school.

Craig’s thoughtful donation will significantly improve the lives of girls in Zimbabwe, but his work is far from finished. He is in the process of acquiring more complex kits from an organization called “Days for Girls,” and even hopes to bring some along to deliver in person on his trip to South Africa.