For a lot of people, periods are a nuisance monthly visitor. They always seem to come at the most inconvenient times when there are no sanitary products in sight. Imagine how much worse a period would be if you were homeless. That’s the case for 11,000 women across NSW. This number is staggering, and that’s why the lovely people at Sydney Period Project (SPP) have stepped up and offered a helping hand. The volunteers at SPP put together a care package filled with tampons, pads, hand sanitiser, disposable scented bags, wipes, gloves and little goodies to hand out to shelters across NSW. I was lucky enough to speak to Karyn Wee, one of the volunteers that is helping women across NSW.
ER: For a lot of people, talking about periods is still taboo. Are you hoping to change the way periods are viewed?
K: It’s inherently a feminist thing to talk about something so taboo. The founder from Melbourne found that a lot of people would tag her on Facebook about anything period related. We’re not period obsessed, but we want to make it more known. It is just an issue that needs help and it really shouldn’t be taboo in the first place. People who donate don’t see a problem with it, and we have lots of men that are keen to donate. We have period in our name, so we can’t avoid it. I’m happy to be part of a charity that can help on such a taboo topic, and I find it sad that’s it taboo and that people don’t feel like they can reach out and get help. Over the past two years it feels as though periods are coming to the forefront, and I would hope that every year we’d get better at talking about these things.
ER: Where did the idea for this project come from?
K: The original was started in Melbourne. The founder was in a tough position in a crisis home, and found they didn’t provide those sorts of things. Once she got out of housing it gave her idea to start, and this was in 2014. She had people from Sydney approaching her about what a good idea it was. We have people messaging us, wanting to donate and who would love to volunteer their time. The number one thing people say to me is “I’ve never thought of this issue before”. So it’s always good to know that when they see our project they’re touched and really want to help.
ER: What goes into these packs each month?
K: As they were starting up in Melbourne they asked women they were helping to get their feedback, because different people have different flows. From there they talked to doctors and health specialists to see what was best. So there’s the choice of pads or tampons, with other essential items in there. We wanted to give them a choice.
ER: How do the centres you donate to react when you approach them?
K: At the beginning we were reaching out to others, because we’re still small we don’t have the resources yet to do outreach like they do in Melbourne. We’ve reached out to services such as Twenty10 in Redfern, The Gender Centre, WEAVE Youth Community Services, The Benevolent Society, Project Youth to name a few. Ultimately it would be great to see how far it does reach and get out there and do it ourselves.
ER: How many sanitary products would be donated a month?
K: We deliver around 40 to 60 packs a month, and in each pack there’s 25 tampons or pads. We are completely non-for profit, so 100% of what we have are donated. We’re also 100% volunteer and it still works out well.
ER: What sort of feedback have you received since starting this project?
K: When I took care of social media I had a lot of people come to me when they wanted to donate, saying things like “I never thought about this before” which is really touching. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a negative thing said about the project. So much so, that there are quite a few other projects doing the same thing. We’re all trying to share the dignity. It’s amazing to see that grow, and being able to work and support each other and encourage each other. There’s no point in it being a competition, as a charity we all just want to help and that’s what is important.
ER: How can someone help?
K: Check out Facebook, that’s where we update the most. Check out our pinned post on how to donate, which is at the top of the page. Whether to donate products, time or money. We occasionally have events, like packing or markets that you can get involved in. But the best way is to LIKE our Facebook page.
Interview by Erin Russell, photos via Sydney Period Project.