December 5, 2021


Only The Finest Women

Nonprofits – Empowering young women: MoonCatcher Project group aims to remove barriers for girls worldwide

COVID-19 has curtailed Ellie von Wellsheim’s in-particular person mission do the job abroad, but it is performed absolutely nothing to discourage her efforts to empower ladies and women of all ages throughout the world.

Von Wellsheim is founder and government director of the Schenectady-dependent MoonCatcher Challenge, which can make and delivers cost-free, reusable, washable menstrual administration kits, named MoonCatcher Kits, for schoolgirls in impoverished communities around the globe. In addition, the corporation gives menstrual administration and reproductive wellbeing classes, and helps set up and support community stitching guilds.

The nonprofit’s mission is extra than an effort and hard work to market superior cleanliness and system consciousness. It is a motion to take away obstacles and empower women to finish their training. These who just can’t find the money for menstrual pads often skip college during their period of time mainly because they lack an effective way to deal with their menstrual flow.

The MoonCatcher Project’s stitching guilds offer a way for gals in developing nations to earn cash flow so they can deliver for their family members. The undertaking has set up guilds to make MoonCatcher Kits in Uganda, Malawi and Kenya, as perfectly as a stitching heart in India, exactly where ladies are full-time staff. In addition, the corporation has not too long ago served teams start off unbiased sewing cooperatives in Nigeria and the Philippines. MoonCatcher Kits are dispersed in lots of other nations around the world as properly.

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Right here in the Funds Location, volunteers keep “MoonBees” — stitching bees wherever MoonCatcher Kits are manufactured and then despatched overseas. Considering that COVID hit, these kinds of gatherings have taken area nearly.

MoonCatcher Kits, which cost about $5 to make, include things like an adjustable fabric provider with a waterproof Tyvek layer and a string tie, applied to fasten the carrier all-around the wearer’s waist. An absorbent, washable fleece pad is inserted into the provider. Each and every kit arrives with a few pads. Also bundled is a water resistant bag to keep utilized pads right until they can be washed.

The kits are housed in a brightly patterned drawstring fabric bag, along with care instructions and a calendar girls can use to keep track of their menstrual cycle.

The MoonCatcher Challenge also collects donations of disposable menstrual materials, which are dispersed locally by Cash Location group services companies. This 12 months, 600 boxes of pads and tampons have been gathered for all those in need to have.

COVID-associated difficulties
In past several years, von Wellsheim and MoonCatcher Venture volunteers have created typical visits to overseas stitching guilds to give instruction and provides, and to assure that kits are produced to the organization’s large requirements. COVID set a halt to that. Quarantines, university shutdowns and provide chain troubles have conspired to upend the complete MoonCatcher Task, but von Wellsheim and her volunteers have been fast on their toes.

Previous calendar year, when experience masks had been in large need, MoonBee volunteers switched to producing people.

“We had over 350 persons that cut and sewed and shipped masks for us,” von Wellsheim recalled.

Extra than 20,000 masks had been developed and dispersed absolutely free of demand to colleges, hospitals, places to eat, grocery retailers and other institutions all over the U.S.

In Malawi, tailors used by the MoonCatcher Undertaking also switched to mask-building to ensure that schoolchildren experienced accessibility to experience coverings. MoonCatcher Package output has now resumed, but with quite a few educational institutions closed thanks to COVID, kit distribution has expanded beyond schoolgirls.

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“We loosened up our policies,” von Wellsheim spelled out. “We mentioned, ‘go into your villages and locate the females and girls that want these. … We’re in extraordinary instances and men and women need our assistance, so just give them out where ever they want to be presented out.’ ”

Pandemic brings probability
With all of its trials, the pandemic has also introduced possibilities. In March 2020, von Wellsheim was approached by a girl intrigued in starting a stitching guild in the Nigerian village exactly where she grew up.

“I stated, ‘I’m happy to give you some kits, but we can’t pay for to assistance yet another sewing cooperative. We’re limping together right here at this level.’ And she stated, ‘well, I really do not want you to pay out for it. I just want you to permit me do it,’ ” von Wellsheim recounted.

The two girls labored out an organizational model in which the MoonCatcher Undertaking supplies its package pattern, instructions, curriculum, top quality management and other help as required. Those people jogging the cooperative finance it, give updates and send out images to verify they are generating the kits correctly. The cooperative began functioning in August of 2020.

In July of that exact 12 months, a lady from the Philippines who experienced listened to about the Nigerian venture contacted von Wellsheim about establishing a very similar cooperative. An arrangement was drawn up that August. Tailor education commenced proper absent and package output is on the improve, von Wellsheim noted.

She is also functioning with a lady from Zimbabwe to established up a cooperative there.

“It’s a magnificent way to grow the task devoid of us possessing to increase a ton much more revenue or to control it all,” she claimed.

People want to help
The MoonCatcher Task is supported by non-public donations and grants. Grant funding dwindled in 2020, but this 12 months, regardless of the ongoing pandemic, the amount of grants obtained has enhanced earlier mentioned all former levels.

“We haven’t been that far under our budgeted figures, thinking of what is been going on. Persons seem to be to want to aid and then we have just been reaching out in distinct approaches,” von Wellsheim said.

Exclusive occasions have been tailored to make them COVID-welcoming. In place of the yearly Moon Wine and Cheese Party, a thriving on line auction was held. Instead of generating and offering lasagna dinners very last December, the venture held a holiday cookie fundraiser, scheduled to acquire location once more this 12 months on Dec. 7-8.

Thanks to inventive fundraising and the new sewing cooperative product which is beginning to take root, von Wellsheim states the business is keeping its have.

“We preserve upping our numbers. We keep heading into new spots. We preserve conversing to additional people today and extra corporations, and extra women are finding out what is going on with their physique,” she discussed.

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The community can help the project’s initiatives by donating resources on the internet at Contributions are utilized to buy MoonCatcher Kit supplies in nations where kits are getting manufactured.

“When we devote $3,000 we’re equipped to make about 600 kits,” von Wellsheim approximated. “Every time we raise income, that signifies far more kits can be manufactured and they go to a lot more girls.”

Passing the torch
Von Wellsheim said she plans to go again to international vacation at the time it is risk-free to do so, but admitted the outings are starting to be a lot more tricky for her. Despite the fact that she reported she’s not all set to retire just however, she thinks a lot more and a lot more about passing the torch to a new chief.

“The difficulty is, the MoonCatcher Project does not pay incredibly a lot income. It’s good for me, simply because I have previously elevated my children and sent them to higher education, and I never want to obtain a new sofa,” she said. “But I simply cannot inquire any person in their 20s or 30s to do this position for what I do it for. … It’s not a living wage. And that is not reasonable, primarily when you’re conversing about women and ladies in the earth. The final point I want to do is have an firm that focuses on this populace and then claims, ‘yeah, but you’re not well worth a dwelling wage.’ ”

The MoonCatcher Project has a committee operating on a succession strategy and on techniques to generate an desirable salary for a long term director.

“And when that occurs, I don’t think it will be that hard to discover another person because it’s a really neat position,” von Wellsheim reported.

She would also be satisfied if an firm accomplishing similar function resolved to choose on the MoonCatcher Undertaking as portion of its programming, she reported. Her main objective is to have her project’s mission reside on.

“I continue on to be really passionate about it,” she claimed. “I feel it is an astounding application to be involved in because it is uncomplicated but it does so significantly very good and it’s so doable. You can give revenue to an organization to build a hospital or a faculty, and people are all wonderful items, but there’s no beginning and end. You give a lady this [MoonCatcher] package and for that female, the dilemma is solved. She can now get care of her interval and carry on — for $5. There’s not that lots of things you can do in everyday living that make that type of a variance for that amount of cash.”

MoonCatcher Task
Year established: 2011
Mission: To improve girls’ lives all over the world by eliminating barriers relevant to menstruation.
Locations served: United States, Sierra Leona, Liberia, Côte D’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Ghana, Benin, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Malawi, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Madagascar, Rwanda, Kingdom of Eswatini, Haiti, Honduras, Pakistan, Bali, Philippines, Australia.
Quotation: “You give a lady this [MoonCatcher] kit and for that girl, the challenge is solved. She can now acquire treatment of her period and have on — for $5. There is not that numerous items you can do in everyday living that make that type of a distinction for that total of money.” — Ellie von Wellsheim, founder and govt director, the MoonCatcher Undertaking

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Categories: Everyday living and Arts, Nonprofits 2021