Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Bra Amnesty

You might remember that a few months ago Rosie and I decided to hold a bra amnesty here in Zambia. We appealed to our family and friends to donate any old or unwanted bras that we could distribute to women here who can’t afford them. I’m pleased to report that the bra amnesty was a huge success and so I wanted to update you on how it all went.

Firstly, thank you so much to everyone who donated bras. Amazingly, we received over 500 of them! They were in good condition, came in all shapes and sizes, and there were even some brand new ones. They included some Calvin Klein and Elle Macpherson bras…you’re obviously a very stylish bunch!

Thank you also to my sisters and Rosie’s family, who between them kindly fit all of these bras into their suitcases when they travelled over from the UK in August. My sister Rachel had a rather hilarious experience collecting her luggage whilst changing planes in Amsterdam. Her large holdall, full of almost 200 vacuum packed bras, had burst. There were a few brightly coloured lace bras on display as it sailed around the luggage reclaim for all to see!

Advertising the bra distribution here also brought some amusing moments. We put a poster up at the Bible College and tried to pass the message on to Arise guardians via word of mouth. During our weekly Arise visits in the two weeks leading up to the distribution, we tried to call in to see as many guardians as possible so that we could let them know. Talking about bras made a lot of them chuckle. I couldn’t understand the conversations they had between themselves in Bemba but there was some bosom grabbing going on and a couple of ladies even whipped theirs out whilst we were there! And when I phoned one of the local pastors we know to ask him to publicise the bra distribution to the ladies at his church, I decided to describe it as an underwear distribution for women, as I didn’t fancy trying to explain what a bra was if he didn’t understand my English!

We were also very grateful to Rosie’s mum, Kathy, who did a great job of sorting the bras in to all of the different sizes whilst Rosie and I were busy setting up our classrooms at the end of the August school holidays. We had arranged the distribution for the week beginning 7th September which was also our first week back at school after the break.

During the distribution, ladies gathered and waited in the nsaka (shelter with a straw roof) so we could invite a few of them in at a time. Having researched online about how to measure and fit bras, we attempted to measure the ladies and encourage them to try appropriate sized bras to check how well they fitted.

Non-wired bras proved particularly popular, probably because many of the women here aren’t used to wearing an underwire. Although we had an area for changing more privately, most of the ladies weren’t worried about that. People definitely don’t seem as body conscious here as we are in the UK! It was funny to see some of our older grannies leaving the distribution looking rather pleased with their new lacy little number.

We were able to give two bras to each of the guardians and older girls from Arise who came to the distribution. And we still had lots left. So we decided that we could help other women in the community by opening the distribution up to anyone living in the local area. We decided to charge a small amount per bra and this has helped raise additional money for the Arise project.

Thank you again for your generosity. I’d also like to give a special shout out to my friend Natalie Seddon and her colleagues at Astellas who between them collected over 100 bras! A bra can seem quite a simple thing in the UK, but most ladies in the communities we work in here simple can’t afford one so as with many things, they usually go without. This was a great way to give the local women a bit of support, in more ways than one!

1 comment:

  1. Had a similar experience when I took lots of underwear, from Harvey Nicholls, to the slums in Kenya. I elicited the help of a young women to sort into piles for the women she knew. It became obvious, very quickly, that she did not know bras had sizes. She bought hers by pointing! The absurdity of a white male (yes 50+ male!), sorting underwear in a small hut in the slums has stayed with me. Lots of laughter that day was followed by young women coming up to me all week to thank me. At the end of my stay I found an Elle McPherson bra and offered it to one of the young women, she said she would give it to her Grand Mother, probably cost more than all the clothes she'd ever bought put together.