Saturday, 5 December 2015

Fashion and incontinence becomes talk of the town

The silent epidemic of incontinence became one of the most talked about topics at New Zealand Fashion Week this year, thanks to fashion designer Frantisek Riha-Scott and business partner Mark Davey, who is also Chair of Rotary Club of Downtown Auckland’s Community Committee.

Their product is Confitex, an innovative and stylish range of underwear for men and women with incontinence.  A fine example of Kiwi ingenuity, the Confitex range marries high-tech sports fabric with fashion and is sleekly styled, absorbent, waterproof, pad-free and eco-friendly. 

Almost one million women and men in New Zealand experience incontinence or occasional bladder leakage. In Australia the figure is around 4.5m and in the USA 115m. 

Mark Davey says New Zealand Fashion Week was an important step forward for an essential conversation. “It was a world first to have lingerie designed for incontinence on the runway at a fashion show,” he says. “When we first researched incontinence products, we were shocked to see what people had to wear - they were big and bulky, and look like adult nappies - it’s no wonder people’s self-esteem is low.”
While developing Confitex, Mark and Frantisek met Dr Lynsey Hayward, an Auckland Urogynaecology Specialist and Vice-President of the International Urogynaecology Association. “It’s very common for women to be so embarrassed they don’t tell their family or partners.  Sometimes they won’t even leave the house, play with their children, or even laugh,” she says.
Following New Zealand Fashion Week, Dr Hayward was delighted to accept from the Rotary Club of Downtown Auckland a Confitex donation of 120 pairs of underwear to help women who can’t afford incontinence pads that can cost over $2,000 a year.  “Some women with this condition will lie on a bed of newspaper because they can’t buy pads anymore,” she says.
The range is being marketed across Australasia by Pharmaco Ltd, a specialist New Zealand owned healthcare sales and marketing company.

Pharmaco Chief Executive Officer Chandra Selvadurai says Confitex is a fantastic example of Kiwi innovation that’s set to disrupt its category by improving people’s lives through innovation and design.  “Up until now incontinence products have been functional, uncomfortable and ugly, and do nothing to boost confidence,” he says.  “As a Kiwi company, we are delighted to be working with another to grow its business in New Zealand and Australia.”

Confitex on the runway at NZ Fashion Week.

Friday, 4 December 2015

The real call of the South Pacific

Toothbrushes and lessons provided during a dental rotation

Fiji, Vanuatu, Tahiti, Palau, Tonga, Samoa… Just hearing the names of those islands conjures up travel brochure images of a warm tropical sun setting in the distance over blue turquoise waters, palm trees, secluded white sandy beaches, and air conditioned hotels calling to your inner most desires. As real and appealing as those images may be, there is another calling in the South Pacific that few hear or know about. It's an urgent call for help.

Answering the call

Having sailed in the South Pacific, Rotarians Richard and Stephanie Hackett, the original founders of a non-profit organization called Sea Mercy, witnessed both the incredible beauty and hardships faced by those living on the remote islands. Seeing the need, they began reaching out to the island nations to learn more about the initiatives they had for their remote island citizens. The feedback they received moved them to take action. Richard said this about what they had learned:

"Although the islands nations were striving to build a modern infrastructure on their larger, more populated primary islands, there was no service delivery mechanism in place, or funds available to try and connect their hundreds of remote islands to even the most basic services. That was when we learned the reality of the situation there."

Richard and Stephanie understood that the need was urgent and knew that with the right relationships in place with the government ministries, an organization could stand in the gap to meet those remote island needs.

In 2012, they launched a non-profit organization called Sea Mercy, a fleet of "free" Floating Health Care Clinics staffed by international based health care volunteers who were willing to answer that call for help. Working under Memorandum of Understandings with their island nation partners (currently Tonga and Fiji), since 2013 they have visited over 150 remote islands, evaluated and treated over 11,500 medical patients, tested and provided over 4,500 reading glasses, and treated over 1,500 dental patients.

Sea Mercy thinks creatively with achieving the end goal in mind. shows that when you really need something, there is always a way to get it.  When two desperately needed water tanks were loaded and offloaded onto Lil Explorers during disaster relief work in Vanuatu, the remote islanders were very excited to have their new water tanks.

In 2014 following Cyclone Ian in Tonga, and in 2015 following Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu, Sea Mercy sent eight vessels to deliver aid and medical care to the devastated remote islands there. In October 2015, they launched their First Response Fleet program to better serve those in need on the remote islands following a natural disaster.

In April 2016, they plan to send out their Global Mercy Armada to the remote Lau Group in Fiji. A program designed to train and assist the remote islands not only to be self-sustaining and survive, but to thrive economically.

With nine more island nations on their target list for these programs (and 1,800 remote islands), they are looking for Rotarians and Rotary clubs who have the same heart for the people in the South Pacific and willing to answer their call for help. Whether it is to join a medical mission rotation, assisting with disaster response needs, or offering your talents and abilities for the Global Mercy Armada, we encourage you to contact Sea Mercy: Sailing with a greater purpose and help make a difference.

For more information, contact Richard via email 

Words and photos:  Richard Hackett President of Sea Mercy and President Elect of the Rotary Club of Fern Ridge, Oregon, USA  

Note that this is not a Rotary project or specifically endorsed by Rotary.