The Free Period Project

Turning excess into positive change (donating hospitals' excess period products to homeless shelters)

Photo of Elizabeth
11 14

Written by

Eligibility: Are you employed by T-Mobile or related to an employee of T-Mobile?

  • No

Date Started

6/20/2017

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working towards the next level of expansion)

1. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project? NOTE: All applications must include a 1 minute video that answers: “I am stepping up to make change because..."

I started this project because I'm fighting for equality. Women deserve to feel dignified, and the taboo surrounding periods must be dismantled. Women don't choose to have periods, therefore period products are a basic necessity that every menstruating individual should have access to. According to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, if a person's basic physiological needs are not being met, they can't even begin to think about self-improvement. For homeless women, this means that they cannot even begin to think about how to better their own situations. For a woman to have to bleed out on the streets is embarrassing, and just one item on a long list of things to worry about. For many homeless women, getting your period means sacrificing meals in order to stay sanitary and feel dignified. Because periods are so taboo, people don't talk about this problem, and are mostly unaware it exists.

2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

I am trying to solve the problem of access to period products. Period products are still being taxed in most states, meaning it is extremely difficult for homeless women to purchase the products they need. Many homeless women are forced to use unsanitary methods, such as rags or toilet paper, because they can't afford pads or tampons--or, they are forced to bleed into what is usually their only set of clothing.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

I am donating hospitals' excess pads to homeless shelters. At two of my local hospitals, maternity pads are distributed to new mothers. However, when a 14-pack of pads is only partially used, the remaining pads are thrown away, though they are individually wrapped and perfectly sanitary. I set up an initiative at Queen's and Kapiolani Hospitals in Honolulu, Hawaii, to collect these unused maternity pads, and every month or so, I pick up these donations and bring them to River of Life Mission, which is an organization that provides meals, clothing, and showers to Hawaii's homeless. Often times, many of the nurses and doctors at the hospital add their own donations to the box, too. This solution is completely cost-free, environmentally friendly, and effective. Since the start of my project, over 4,000 pads have been donated, among donations of clothing and soap as well.

4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

When the word spread about my project at the hospital, nurses and doctors began donating items on their own. Along with the hospitals' pads, I will often find a pair of shoes, some clothing, soap, or even canned food inside my donation box. It is a truly amazing feeling to see the butterfly effect up-close -- that one good action can send ripples into a community, and that people genuinely care and want to help when given the opportunity. When I partnered with River of Life Mission to donate period products and other donations, I was told that donations of pads and tampons are so low, that employees often have to use their own personal money to purchase pads and tampons for these homeless women. After my project started, I've been told that the organization hasn't had to do this since. As the word has spreads about my project, it brings more awareness to the issue.

5. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

This is an issue that has been overlooked for years. Periods are not a new thing, and neither is the issue of homelessness, which happens to be a huge problem in Hawaii, where I live. I have never seen an organization or project that tackles the issue of access to period products in my state, so I can't compare very well to other programs or solutions. My solution is cost-effective and eco-friendly because it uses what would otherwise be thrown away. I believe every women, and not just those who are homeless, should have access to free period products.

6. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

So far, over 4,000 pads (among baby diapers, infant formula, adult diapers, underwear, clothing, etc.) have been donated to River of Life Mission, but the need is still there and will always be there. Although I do not distribute the pads myself, I know that employees and volunteers of River of Life Mission no longer need to purchase pads or tampons with their own personal money. The core "team" of this project consists of myself, my mother, and the director of nurses at Queen's Hospital. However, the project would not be possible without the nurses at both Queen's and Kapiolani Hospitals, who are the ones who put the pads in the donation box, and make their own personal donations on occasion. These nurses are part of the team, too. The employees and volunteers who distribute the pads are also part of the team.

7. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

Thinking about the next level for this project makes me so excited. I would absolutely love to see my initiative implemented at hospitals across the country--even across the world. I want to spread the word about this issue because every single menstruating individual has the right to the necessity that is pads and tampons. Period products are just as essential as toilet paper--both things are items used for natural biological processes that do not happen by choice. Therefore, I want to see all public restrooms provide period products for free, just the way they provide toilet paper for free. I want to be sure that women in prison have access to pads and tampons, as well. Again, periods are a natural process that needs to be cared for.

8. Future Support: What are the resources needed to make your vision a reality?

I think a website would be a great place to start to spread the word about my project and track its progress. I think that with funding, I could travel to different hospitals to try to implement my project in these places. With funding, I would also like to purchase official donation boxes. Perhaps if the project really takes off, I could hire people to deliver the pads. Maybe this employment option could be an initiative in itself to provide employment opportunities for homeless women to get back on their feet and turn their lives around. I want this project to be all about supporting women, not because they are better than men (they're not. we're all equal) but because they have not been supported historically.

9. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Family support

10. Ripple Effect: Please share some ideas of how you could partner with other changemakers or involve other young people as leaders in making a difference.

I've engaged my mother into my project. She helps me to pick up and drop off donations. I've engaged the head of nurses at Queen's with my project--she has helped me spread the word at Queen's hospital. I've spread the word on my own, and received donations from my friends and classmates. I think that partnering with other projects that focus on women, in any way, would be wonderful. Whether that project focuses on homeless women, period products, employing women, women of color--I think collaboration of any kind would be awesome. Questions to address with this collaboration: How can we change the way society thinks about women? How can we create equality among all genders and all races? What are the experiences of women of color or women belonging to the LGBTQ+ community? How can we lift the taboo on periods? Also, projects that focus on health care would be great to collaborate with. Questions to address with this collaboration: How can we make hospitals more efficient? Hospitals are full of people whose jobs are literally to help people! How can we utilize the altruism at hospitals to make a change outside the physical hospital?

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 [optional] Which of the following categories do you identify with?

  • Asian (for example: Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Pakistani) (9)
  • Middle Eastern or North African (for example: Lebanese, Iranian, Egyptian, Syrian, Moroccan, Algerian) (11)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 [optional] Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities?

  • Communities of color

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • T-Mobile page or contact

Evaluation results

11 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 81.8%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 18.2%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. - 0%

2. Changemaker Quality

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 80%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 20%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

3. Creativity

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 81.8%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 9.1%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 9.1%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

4. Commitment

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 100%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 25%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 12.5%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

5. Connection

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 90.9%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 9.1%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer or No Connection - 0%

11 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Ariyan Miller
Team

Hey There Fellow Changemaker,

Congrats on moving to the next phase. I wishing you the best of luck ! & I am sending love and light to all the positive things that you do.

Photo of Brian Yee
Team

Good idea

Photo of Charles R. Zerez, MD
Team

Way to go Elizabeth! This is a great idea that helps women in need. This is an example of what we need more of in this country!

Photo of Leah Shin
Team

I think this is a great idea and project!!! Many people don't think about other individuals who can not afford these products.

Photo of Olivia Hardinnieri
Team

This is so important to today's society because of the stigma associated with periods. Every woman deserves to have the supplies and support she needs, and this could help with that. (:

Photo of Natalie Laky
Team

Awesome awesome awesome! This is such an important cause that is often overlooked because it's "taboo" or "shameful" to be a woman getting her regular period. I'm so glad there are young people like you who are striving to make a change in the dominant discourse and make grassroots change to help women in need of basic supplies.

Photo of Elizabeth
Team

Natalie Laky Exactly!! I hope that this project will not only supply women with a basic necessity, but that it will tackle the taboo and get people comfortable talking about periods. Thank you so much for your support! It means a lot to me!

Photo of Vivian Tran
Team

This is such a resourceful idea! I was shocked to find out that excess feminine hygiene products were being thrown away at hospitals despite still being sanitary and perfectly usable. Thanks for educating me on this topic and our initiative to promote female sanitation by providing impoverished with feminine hygiene products. It would be really amazing if we could work together in having The Free Period Project  help supply these unused feminine hygiene products collected from hospitals to Cupboards for Change! - Free Street Pantries for Those in Need  in order to make it easier for the impoverished to access necessities such as food, water, AND feminine hygiene products!

Photo of Elizabeth
Team

Vivian Tran Thank you for your support! I would absolutely love to collaborate with Cupboards for Change! - Free Street Pantries for Those in Need ! Such a great idea--I left you a note on your page as well :-)

Photo of Ezra Bram
Team

The practical attitude you approach your local issue with is spot on! This is exactly the type of work that we want to shed light on at CATALYST COFFEE AND TAPHOUSE in Denver! Let us know if you ever need connections in the area.
Also, Vivian Tran beat me to the punch on this one, because I was totally going to plug her idea. This is right up Cupboards for Change! - Free Street Pantries for Those in Need 's alley! Keep up the good work--you guys rock!

Photo of Elizabeth
Team

Ezra Bram thank you so much--I'm definitely looking to expand this initiative as far as it can possibly go, and all help is appreciated! I'd love to hear any suggestions you have for getting The Period Project started in Denver.
I will definitely check out Vivian's Cupboards for Change! - Free Street Pantries for Those in Need . Thanks again!