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Thank you United Way Niagara for raising awareness for needed period products. I am 45 years old and I was one of those girls your campaign speaks about.
My dad became a single dad at age 26 to a three-year-old son and five-year-old daughter. My mom decided family life was not for her and left. I remember spending one day in grade 4 health class learning about periods, but it wasn’t until four years later, in grade 8, when I finally started mine. Although I knew what was happening, I did not have any supplies.
I didn’t know what poverty meant or was until I was older. My dad worked full time at The Beer Store. He couldn’t miss work, so we were home alone ALOT. During my period, I would phone my dad at work to tell him I wasn’t feeling good to avoid going to school. I couldn’t tell him what I needed because I had never heard of a tampon or pad. I also felt guilty asking for something that cost money.
My aunt reached out to me a few months after starting my period. She invited me to her house, informed me that I would start my period soon and provided me with a thick pad for that time. I was so excited as this meant I could go to school the next time I had my period! I wore that one pad for my entire period the next month.
There were lonely days at home during my period. Sometimes I would go to school to avoid the loneliness. I would go to the bathroom multiple times, sit on rolled up toilet paper, trying to avoid getting blood on my pants. I always tried to make sure no one was behind me when I walked the halls, although I’m sure people noticed. I tried to create a pair of acid wash jeans with bleach, thinking people would be distracted by the bleach spots. I was proud making those jeans. However, by noon I was sent home from school because the bleach was burning my legs. I didn’t rinse the bleach from the jeans before wearing them. I was trying to figure out this grown up world I had now become apart of yet, not knowing how to ask for help.
I got my first job at the age of 13, the end of grade 8, and was finally able to purchase supplies.
This campaign means the world to me. Thank for bringing awareness to this cause. Thank you for helping. Thank you for those that are giving their time to make this happen. Thank you from the girl that doesn’t have to have my experience because of you.
A few years back we met Casey, a 13 year old girl who lived with her father. Her mother passed away from an illness when she was 9. Her father Mark worked hard to keep them in their family home after his wife passed. He was hurt at work three years ago and has not been able to work since then. They had to move to a smaller apartment and still struggled to pay the rent and put food on the table.
Things got even harder when Casey got her first period. Mark had to seek help from their local food bank to make ends meet. With a monthly check from ODSP of just over $1,100, Mark had to make tough choices. Casey could not join a sports team with her friends or go out with them on the weekends. Over time she became more isolated and her mental health suffered. When Casey would get her period, Mark simply could not afford to buy period products. He got them when he could from the food bank – but they were not always available.
She was forced to stay home from school each month and fell behind her peers even more, resulting in being bullied. She was called “stupid” for scoring low on tests because she missed entire topics.
United Way’s Period Promise campaign is working to help people like Casey and Mark. It is the unfortunate reality in Niagara that 1 in 3 people, like Casey, under 25 struggles to afford period products. Period Promise is a community wide product drive – with all products distributed to local agencies and service providers in Niagara – to ensure that there is access to period products, when and where they are needed.
It is more than that. Period Promise is also advocating for businesses and organizations to provide period products at no cost, reducing barriers and isolation for those living in poverty.