Guest Post by Dany Karemera, Production Manager
I just returned from a week in Skillman, New Jersey. It was my first time in the US – what a beautiful country! I was there for a training with Johnson and Johnson, who assists my organization (SHE) on the development of appropriate technology of manufacturing of sanitary pads out of banana fibers in Rwanda. During my 5 days in New Jersey, I worked with Michael Moscherosch and Ken Pelley, who are J&J engineers. They trained me on assembly, operation, maintenance and repair of the Phase 1 machine that will take banana fibers and convert them directly into fluff (absorbent material) as well as test method training.
Our technical collaboration with J&J has allowed us to develop a revamped manufacturing process with three phases of implementation:
Phase 1 is the new equipment which will streamline our pulping process. It takes banana fiber and converts it directly into fluff.
Phase 2 will convert the fluff into a tissue wrapped absorbent pad that then can be converted into menstrual pads.
Phase 3 will convert the menstrual pads into fully assembled pads.
We presented SHE’s patented innovation and technical collaboration work to senior leaders at Johnson and Johnson, including Michael Sneed, Vice President of Global Corporate Affairs.
Every night after training, I was hanging out with different J&J people, having dinner together and getting questioned about life in Rwanda and how we make pads out of banana fibers. They were very happy to be with me and get different knowledge from my experience. I also experienced different foods in the US. They were very good but it was hard to eat noodles using chopsticks for my first time! Before I started my training in New Jersey, I had an amazing time with my teammates Connie and Melissa in New York and visited different places such as Top of the Rock where you see an amazing view of New York City, saw dinosaur skeletons which lived thousands years ago at the American Museum of Natural History, and visited beautiful places such as Times Square, Central Park, the Brooklyn Bridge, and many more. It was very exciting! I am not scared of changes but to live between -3 degrees and -4 degrees Celsius (about 30 degrees Fahrenheit) was very hard for me. When I woke up and saw snow outside, I was very happy to see the snow for my first time and this was on my list of things to see in United States. I was very happy to see everything in white and Michael taught me how to throw snowballs (very funny). I have returned to Rwanda, and I am now at work with Michael and the J&J team to make our scale-up production process a reality.