Our school is committed to helping our community, and the world around us. All year long, our high school students devote a lot of energy and talent to community service projects, inspiring the rest of our community to give and volunteer.
This month, we are collecting menstrual hygiene products for the Homeless Period Project, an annual effort that began with the leadership of an alumnus and grew exponentially in the years since we first got involved. Last year, we amassed some 1,500 packs of products collected into large Ziploc bags and donated to this nationwide effort, which then distributes the donations to schools and homeless centers.
Guided by Student Council Advisor Melissa Hiatt and led this year by Student Council leaders Riley Day and Tyler Cochran-Branson, we are overflowing donations – thank you to our community!
“The Homeless Period Project is a really important organization,” says Tyler Cochran-Branson. “I take having pads and tampons for granted, and I can’t imagine living without them. Donating period packs not only helps women in the Sacramento area, but also raises awareness and brings to our attention the privilege we experience in our own lives and at Sacramento Waldorf School.”
“By recognizing our own privilege and using it to help others, we make the world we are about to go into better,” Tyler notes. “And, at its very core, that is what Waldorf education is about: using education and knowledge and exposure to positively impact the world.”
Why did we take on this cause? Mainly because we wanted to help in an area that is sorely needed.
Many people donate food and clothing to benefit people who experience homelessness. In the Sacramento region, homelessness is a growing and steady problem. Our climate (as in much of California) attracts a larger homeless population than in colder areas of our country. The homeless population in our state is growing at a rate far greater than our nation and other states are seeing.
And, we might not fully grasp the many challenges that accompany homelessness. For instance, people experiencing homelessness who menstruate may not attend school or go to work if they don’t have products to address their monthly flow. What’s more, in place of the lack of hygienic products, they may turn to rags and other unsanitary substitutes, and with the already-existing lack of access to sanitation, this can increase the risk of infection.
Menstrual hygiene products are the least donated items to shelters. People give toothbrushes, clothing, non-perishable food items, and more.
This year, says Melissa Hiatt, we are expanding our consciousness of this effort to gather as many paper-based products as possible, to dovetail with our year-long focus on climate change and environmental consciousness on campus.
“We are trying to help, especially young women in our area, attend school, have jobs, be able to eat and have a safe life,” says Hiatt.
The Homeless Period Project came to our school as a senior project by 2018 graduate Cole Dupzyk. Student Council took it over last year, after Cole graduated, and this year marks our third year running with this project.
Last year, we tripled the amount that we gathered the first year. During the week of February 10th, we will gather during lunch for packing parties, where students will fill Ziploc bags with donated items to donate en masse to the local Homeless Period Project headquarters for widespread distribution.
“The first year that we did it, we held a very large assembly and I think people were significantly blown away at the idea, and really excited to be doing something that could have so much impact,” Hiatt says. “Our struggles with homelessness in Sacramento are big. We don’t have enough beds all winter long. Many of our students volunteer at church and shelter locations to help feed people experiencing homelessness.”
“At school, in looking for service opportunities and awareness-raising, we’ve tried to bring projects that our students can have impact on people their own age, where it can feel real and present, people who live here in this community, who are having a really different experience than the blessed and privileged state that our students live in,” Hiatt adds.