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The purpose of the Humanitarian Award is to honor individuals or groups who, through their humanitarian activities, have demonstrated exceptional commitment to the philosophical principles of occupational therapy. The CFOT was honored to present the 2015 CFOT Humanitarian Award to Michelle Craft for her ongoing contributions to the Pad Project serving young women in Kenya, Africa. The Pad Project makes washable, re-usable maxi pads for girls and women in impoverished areas in Kenya. The Pad Project is part of Too Little Children, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization. More information is available on their website.
The Pad Project was initiated to address a pressing need to help girls remain in school in Kenya. A school principal in Kenya reported that as school girls reached menarche, they were often missing a week of school every month due to the limited availability of feminine hygiene products. School fees in Kenya are a major expense for families and often girls miss school or drop out when they start menstruating. Older boys started buying disposable feminine hygiene products and were giving these to girls in exchange for sex. Emma Stober coordinated a project to make washable, re-usable pads. Emma initiated workshops in her areas in the Midwest and in North Carolina initially.
Emma met Michelle though the pastor at Michelle’s church. Emma wished to establish a pad workshop near Travis Air Force Base where her husband had been transferred. She asked the pastor to identify individuals in the congregation who might be willing to establish a pad workshop in the area. Michelle was a member of the church and known to the pastor. The pastor suggested that Emma contact her and a wonderful heartfelt, healthful, and humanitarian endeavor was initiated at Michelle’s quilt shop, The Quilted Heart, in Vacaville, CA.
Michelle provided workshop space, expertise, and recruited volunteers. Michelle is a skilled seamstress and also a retired special education teacher. As any good special education teacher would, she broke down the tasks involved in the assembly of the pads into different steps requiring varying degrees of skill and established an assembly line of tasks so that interested volunteers could assist without the necessity of being skilled seamstresses. She recruited a large core group of volunteers and also improved upon the stitches used in the machine sewing to make a more durable product. She used and uses her business license to purchase necessary materials at a reduced cost and she actively solicits donated materials needed for the project. She has conducted monthly workshops since August of 2013 and these workshops generate the largest number of pads for the overall project. Another important part of the project is having someone in Too Little Children take the pads personally to Kenya to teach the girls how to use, care for the pads, and care for their bodies. Emma Stober was also nominated for the CFOT Humanitarian Award, but Emma felt that Michelle alone should receive the award as she and her volunteers are the largest group of Pad contributors.
The CFOT is honoring Michelle primarily for her important contributions to The Pad Project, but Michelle also hosts an annual fundraising event to support local cancer programs and she is also a team captain for the Relay for Life event to support the American Cancer Society.