“We strive to spread the message that periods are something that should be celebrated.”
By: Emily J
Homeless women across the United States are getting free menstrual products, thanks to Nadya Okamoto’s brilliant idea.
Since the 18-year-old Harvard student created Camions of Care, the organization has donated more than 250,000 tampons and 100,000 pads to women in need. Through their work, Camions of Care aims not only to provide an expensive necessity to homeless women, but also to change the tone around talking about menstruation.
“We strive to spread the message that periods are something that should be celebrated,” Nadya told The Huffington Post, “because it tells a woman that her body is working and she is grown, not something that should at all give a reason for her to feel less qualified and less capable.”
For homeless women, tampons and pads are extremely hard to come by. People are often embarrassed or feel awkward donating them and homeless shelters are afraid to ask for them.
“Part of the reason we don’t have things like that is because we may not ask explicitly,” Margie Wakeham, executive director of nonprofit Families Forward, which that helps families in need, told The Los Angeles Times. “People from my generation don’t talk about tampons, sanitary pads and hygiene products. There’s a shyness to do that.”
“Homeless women who don’t get the proper sanitary products are forced to use brown paper bags, socks, and toilet paper,” explains Nadya in the video below. Without the proper care, these women can face infections and Toxic Shock Syndrome.
Camions of Care currently has 47 high school and university volunteers across the US and more than 2,000 volunteers abroad. First, the group buys the products or gets them via sponsorships and community drives. Next, the organization hosts a party where volunteers put together care packages consisting of nine tampons, five panty liners, and four maxi pads. Afterwards, volunteers or representatives for Camions of Care delivers them to the group’s nonprofit partners such as, homeless shelters, transitional housing services, or abused women’s shelters.
“The response has been tremendous,” Nadya continued, “Our partners will tell us that the women are ‘thankful’ or tell us they don’t have words to describe what this means for them.”
“We also hear from our partners and the women themselves,” she added. “They are touched and feel cared for when they realize that youth are fighting for something that they often feel so challenged with, but not confident enough to reach out for help.”
Want to get involved with Camions of Care? Watch the video below to find out how!