Meet the Yellowmen, a group of Sussex Rotarians and friends, who have been working in the Kenyan district of Central Pokot for 12 years.
They include doctors, nurses, engineers, builders, teachers, paramedics, a dentist, an optometrist, mechanics, linguists, students, a broadcaster and an accountant who travel twice-yearly to Africa to support local medical services and schools.
In that time, the Yellowmen, have built a clinic in Tikeet, refurbished a clinic in Marich and a hospital in Sigor, supplied medicines and diagnostic equipment to five local clinics, supported HIV groups, built new classrooms and refurbished existing schools, and hosted a series of health clinics, including an optical screening programme and a dental survey.
The instigator behind the project is Eddie McCall, a member of the Senlac Rotary Club near Hastings who first visited West Pokot in 2000.
He said he was moved by the simplicity of the way of life and by the daily struggle faced by the people of Pokot.
“I was particularly struck by the lack of adequate health care,” explained Eddie.
Now the Yellowmen’s focus is tackling the education and welfare of girls.
Their team of nurses have produced a presentation on menstruation, designed to educate girls what was happening to their bodies.
“This is also a tool to get local teachers and medics to change the lack of support for girls suffering from painful periods and lack of basic knowledge,” explained Eddie.
It’s a small thing you might think, but not so to these girls.”
“At the presentations, sufficient sanitary towels were taken to supply each girl attending with one month’s supply.
“The presentation also looks at the towels which are made and used by the girls, focusing on the whole question of hygiene.”
In follow-up talks with local nurses and teachers, it soon transpired that the problem was even worse than first thought.
Not only was there a lack of sanitary towels which the girls could afford, they often couldn’t even afford sufficient pants to keep them supplied during their periods.
Once this became apparent, the Yellowmen ladies went into action and the Knickers Project was born.
So far sufficient money has been raised to buy 1500 pairs of pants which will be given to the girls when they receive their free sanitary towels during the Yellowmen visit this September.
“It’s a small thing you might think, but not so to these girls,” added Eddie.
“Those girls who cannot even afford sanitary towels or sufficient pants to last them through their periods will not attend school.
“So each month they miss anything between two and five days amounting to perhaps 10 weeks throughout the year.”
Eddie explained that 1500 pairs of knickers may not be sufficient, but it is a start.
As a guide, the Yellowmen can buy a dozen pairs of pants in Kenya for Kes 550/- or about £4, far less than the cost of carrying free knickers to Kenya by air.
“The Knickers Project is a bit elastic which will grow as more money is collected,” he said.
For more information about the project please contact Nadia Jones on 0798 38 11 46. Donations made payable to the “Rotary Club of Senlac”, may be sent to The Yellowmen Knickers Project c/o The Cottage, Crowhurst, Battle, East Sussex, TN33 9AS.