Just before Christmas, a good friend shared an article on Facebook which looked at the issue of period poverty and asked friends to support a collection of tampons and sanitary pads to donate to her local food bank.
Immediately, I realised that I had never considered donating these items before and had really only thought about food for food banks. It turns out I was not alone. My friend's local food bank had been forced to turn women away as they did not have the stock they needed to meet the ongoing demand.
Reading about period poverty was an important reminder to myself that I really am incredibly fortunate. Whilst I've definitely had to live on a budget, at times I've felt 'totally skint' and there's been lots of times I've had to buy own brand items rather than the ones I'd really like to buy, I've NEVER had to choose between food and tampons and NEVER, unlike some women mentioned in the article, had to resort to using socks or newspapers at that 'time of the month'.
I originally offered to donate to my friend's collection but then wondered if I should do a collection for the food bank in my area. So a few weeks ago I shared the same article with a similar plea to my friends and family. I knew they would support me but I had no idea just how much support there would be out there.
Straight away there were likes, comments and shares of the post. Messages arrived asking how could they get donations to me, could they send me money to buy packs, what kind should they buy etc etc. Over the next few days and weeks I found bags of tampons left on my desk by colleagues, I collected bags more when I met friends for coffee, dinner and even in a pub car park! I filled trolleys in various local supermarkets, day after day, as cash donations came in from friends and family, becoming along the way somewhat of a human www.comparethetampon.com knowing where would get me the most for the money I received.
Before I knew it I was coming up to 100 boxes. I couldn't believe it! I wondered, could I make it to 150? I do love a nice round number after all.
I kept them in the corner of my bedroom and as a couple of bags turned into lots of bags, and shopping bags turned into bin bags, Tampon Mountain was born. It made me smile whenever I saw it as, for me, it was a symbol of the kindness and generosity of the many wonderful people in my life.
Well in the end I didn't end on a round number but I did end on a BIG number; a far more important thing of course.
I'd set myself an unofficial deadline of the 14th of February; St Valentines Day did seem an appropriate time to show a bit of love for those who need it most in our community.
So on the morning of the big day I did a final count and as I stuffed my little Fiat 500 to the brim, full of bags of donations, I was chuffed to pieces to know that I was going to be able to deliver over 270 packs to local food banks in Edinburgh!
Fantastic right? Absolutely, but it doesn't end there! I had also received a message from a friend of a friend who had seen my post on Facebook and, as a teacher in a local high school, Leith Academy, had taken the opportunity to address the issue of poverty in the local community with students and teachers. They had also encouraged donations and they now had a great big box with over 60 packets ready for me to collect!
So the final total was now over 330!! yes, that's OVER THREE HUNDRED AND THIRTY!!
The first batch I donated to the Edinburgh Food Project, which covers Edinburgh North West, Central and East Foodbanks and combined, provides free emergency food parcels to over 7500 men, women and children in these Edinburgh districts. The final batch I ensured was donated to the Foodbank serving the Leith area, it seemed only fitting given these were collected by Leithers after all!
Ewan, the Operations Manager at the Edinburgh Food Project was incredibly grateful for our donations and took the time to show me around their warehouse. He talked me through how it all works and how they had managed to grow through ongoing support from their original warehouse....his garage! The enthusiasm and drive of the individuals who make these projects work is inspiring to see and although it is unarguably awful that these centres are needed today, it's reassuring to know that they are there and are run by dedicated people doing an incredible job.
So Tampon Mountain is no more, I no longer spend my lunch times wandering around supermarkets filling my trolley to the brim and explaining what I am doing to bemused checkout assistants.
I'm so grateful to everyone who got involved and helped make this appeal such a success. I'd also like to pass on thanks to them from the team at Edinburgh Food Banks and of course say a big thank you to my friend for inspiring me in the first place.
Well done everyone! Great team effort!
Love, as always, Barnet x
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(apparently whilst it does show the food they need it doesn't list the personal items required)