One Agassiz resident is making sure no one has to go without proper sanitary products because of money.
“It’s not something cute, it’s not very glamorous,” Miel Bernstein, a local organic farmer and the originator of the project, said. “Some people don’t really think about it. But it’s a big need.”
Bernstein first came up with the idea of fundraising for these kinds of items after speaking to a local ambassador for United Way.
Shortly before Christmas, she decided to go at it on her own, and with the help of her friends and acquaintances raised more than $1,000 worth of pads, tampons and period underwear.
“I’ve had a couple of people who said ‘I was at a point in my life when I couldn’t afford this and it was embarrassing,’” Bernstein said about some of the people who contributed to her campaign in December, adding that hearing their story was “pretty meaningful.”
Those first donations were shared with Agassiz Harrison Community Services and Extra FARE, a new program in Chilliwack that provides people in need with diet-specific food baskets. Gender-neutral period underwear was given to a Chilliwack gender counselling group, and other products were shared with local women’s shelters.
Bernstein, who helps deliver for Extra FARE, saw the impact these products had for the Extra FARE organization first hand.
“They were just like ‘Oh my god, this is life changing,’” Bernstein said.
The original donations Bernstein put together became a weekly staple for the organization, which allowed people in need to ask for them with their food basket.
“These people, basically they’ll just go without.” she said. “They’ll use toilet paper, or whatever it might be.
“I remember from being a young person, if you ever got yourself caught out and you had to do that, it was not very comfortable,” she continued. “I couldn’t imagine if that’s what you do because you need to pay rent or you need to buy food.”
An estimate from 2014 by the Canadian Menstruators, an advocacy group for tax fairness on menstrual products, said that the average woman spends around $29 a year on period-specific products. (This number was obtained by dividing the number of Canadian women between the ages of 12 and 49, and the amount spent on menstrual hygiene products.)
Certain products, such as washable pads or period underwear, can have a higher upfront cost, making them inaccessible for those with lower incomes, even though it would help lower costs in the long run.
“Once you have a set of those, then you’re not having to buy them every month again,” Bernstein said about the washable pads. She was able to include several of those in the initial run of donations before Christmas.
Now, however, that batch of donations has run out, and Bernstein is hoping the community will be able to support her in gathering more supplies.
“I decided we need to do this ongoingly,” she said.
Bernstein is hoping that residents will be able to support her project by donating money or products that can be used to support locals in need.
She’s already received some support from Agassiz’s Remedy Rx, which will donate some menstrual products, and allow Bernstein to purchase items at cost in the future.
She’s hoping she will be able to continue to divide the donations between local Community Services, Chilliwack organizations and individuals she knows are in need.
“Right now … we’re working on fumes,” she said. “But if someone is in need and they want to get in touch with me and I can drop off what they need, I’m happy to do that too.”
Anyone who is interested in donating to Bernstein’s campaign can drop off items at 2614 Else Road. (Bernstein is also available to pick up items in Agassiz, Harrison or Chilliwack.)
Etransfers to the program can be made to firstname.lastname@example.org, or monetary donations can be made through Remedy Rx.
Anyone who can’t afford menstrual products can contact Bernstein at email@example.com to ask for support.
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