Prime Minister shines light on underwear charity

A woman who founded a charity that has collected over 100,000 items of underwear and distributed them to vulnerable women and children in Africa has been named a Point of Light by Prime Minister David Cameron.

Maria Macnamara from Livingston founded Smalls for All after taking part in volunteer trips to orphanages in Brazil, Thailand and Ethiopia.

The charity provides underwear to orphanages, slums, Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camps, schools and hospitals. It also funds the education of 31 children in Kenya and Uganda.

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Macmanara is the latest recipient of a Point of Light award, which recognises outstanding individual volunteers.

Each day, someone, somewhere in the country is selected to receive the award to celebrate their remarkable achievements.

David Cameron said: “Maria has identified a direct way to make a huge difference in the lives of women in developing countries. In just five years she has set up Smalls for All and gathered over 100,000 items of underwear to send to women across Africa.

“It may seem like a small action, but Maria’s work will have had an immediate impact on the daily lives of thousands of women and I am delighted to recognise her service with this Points of Light award.”

After participating in several volunteer trips to an orphanage in Ethiopia, Macnamara was inspired to make a longer-lasting difference across a wider part of Africa.

She read about a priest in Zimbabwe that wrote about how a lack of underwear for communities can cause serious problems.

Not only is it a health and hygiene issue, but the Smalls for All website explains that: “Women who can afford underwear tend to be seen as having someone who cares for them – a husband, brother or father. They are not on their own so they are not seen as vulnerable.”

A lack of underwear can also impact their access to education. Girls who are lucky enough to have a place in school miss three or four days a month due their lack of underwear because they aren’t able to manage their periods.

Macnamara said: “I am absolutely delighted that the work that Smalls and our supporters has been doing has been recognised in this way.

“In the UK we take small things like underwear for granted but in Ethiopia I saw what a huge impact it can have.”

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