Businesses are being urged to support a Plymouth woman who is single-handedly working to fight ‘period poverty’ in local schools.
It is estimated that one in 10 young women do not have access to sanitary products which can often results in them missing school during their period.
The Red Box Project is a national scheme run by volunteers who collect sanitary products from donation points and distribute them to local schools.
The scheme only began operating in Plymouth six months ago when local woman Lyndsay Whitfield volunteered to take on the role so shocked at the scale of the problem locally.
Since then she has worked tirelessly in what spare time she has to set up ‘Red Box Project’ donation points across the city and writing to schools inviting them to get onboard.
Lyndsay now has 30 schools signed up to the scheme and has installed ‘Red Box Project’ bins at checkouts in Tesco in Transit Way and Roborough, Morrisons on Outland Road and eight Co-op stores citywide, among other locations.
Today, the boss of Cornish firm Total Energy Solutions launched an appeal to urge businesses to back the project by making donations of cash or sanitary supplies. The company’s managing director Alastair Carnegie kicked off the appeal by donating £100 worth of sanitary products.
Alastair said: “We were just appalled when we heard about the scale of the problem and, as a business with Corporate Social Responsibility at its core, we just had to help.
“To hear stories of girls being bullied because they do not have sanitary products is absolutely appalling. Just £100 enabled us to buy 2,110 sanitary products, enough to support 17 girls for a year. If other local businesses did the same, just think of the difference we could make.”
Welcoming the donation, Lyndsay said: “These products will help so many young girls who for whatever reason don’t have access to sanitary products or their families just cannot afford them.
“When I first started this I did not know how much of a big issue it was in Plymouth. I emailed a few schools initially and pretty much all said ‘We are desperate for something like this’.
“I’ve heard cases here where a mum and daughter have taken it in turns to go out stealing sanitary products because they can only just about afford to eat.
“I’ve heard other stories of girls having accidents at school and having to go home, or other just staying at home each month because they can’t afford to buy them.”
Just two of the schools benefitting from the scheme are Stoke Damerel Community College and Hele’s School in Plympton.
Rachel Miller, director of student welfare at Stoke Damerel, said: “Prior to The Red Box Project some of the support workers would have to finance supplies themselves.
“We do have some children who are disadvantaged and whose parents are finding it really difficult to finance sanitary ware due to change in benefits or Universal Credit, so this project is of great benefit as it enables students to continue to come into school during their period.”
Claire Chard of Hele’s School added: “In our experience there are various reasons why students are unable to provide their own sanitary protection and some rely on what we can offer. As a school our resources are increasingly stretched and without the availability of the Red Box our provision of sanitary items to students would be limited.
“Hele's School are very appreciative of the donations we have received from The Red Box Project and many students have benefited from the scheme.”
Last month the Government announced it would introduce free funding to provide sanitary products in all English secondary schools. Whilst welcoming the move Lyndsay said it won’t reach every one in need.
“This is good news but it will only help the small minority,” she added. “For example, primary schools are not going to be included and many girls start their periods whilst young and still at primary school.”
One of the most popular donation points is the ‘Red Box’ at the checkout of Tesco in Transit Way where customers drop off supplies they have purchased in store.
Community Champion for the store Jacki Kinardcastle said: “We were delighted to be the first supermarket to be involved and support The Red Box Project in Plymouth.
“As a store we are constantly overwhelmed by the generosity of our customers and staff with their donations to this worthy project.”
Store managers have now offered Lyndsay a storage area where she can keep donated supplies in further support of the project.
Lyndsay, who also works full-time as a cabin crew manager for British Airways and has a two year old son with husband Shaun, said: “This will be a real help for me because my house is just full of products. My husband will be so pleased I now have somewhere to store them instead of at home.”
Businesses and shop customers are being urged to make either cash or product donations to help reach out to more local girls in need.
Lyndsay would also welcome support from volunteers willing to help collect and deliver donated supplies, and businesses who could help with printing and laminating posters or even supply a laptop to help her keep an electronic record of The Red Box Project’s accounts.
Anyone who can help is urged to contact Lyndsay via email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lyndsay and Alastair are happy to be interviewed and filmed about the appeal and the work of Red Box Project locally. To set up interviews or for further information contact Jayne Freer on 07711 264087 or email email@example.com