WELLBEING | The Red Box Project – The Power of Community
Ensuring that no young person misses out on their education because they have their period.
For the last nine months, I’ve been running the local branch of a nationwide community project called The Red Box Project.
The Red Box Project was set up in Portsmouth in 2017 by a group of friends who decided they wanted to do something to end period poverty among school girls. And so, they did exactly that.
RBP now has ‘projects’ all across the UK, and has provided thousands and thousands of schools across the country with red boxes filled with sanitary products that girls in need can help themselves to, as and when they need to. There’s no fuss, no bother, no embarrassment – just ease-of-access and a removal of stigma and shame.
Anyway. Have you ever considered doing something in your local community? You – yes, you – really have the power within you to make a difference, in whatever form you want to. Here’s what I’ve learnt since dipping my toe into the world of local community projects.
There is kindness, everywhere
I didn’t really know where to begin when it came to kicking off my Red Box Project. A handwritten list of schools and a freshly set-up Facebook page later and I had been absolutely blown away by the generosity – both in terms of product donations and in terms of support – that I had received. We live in a world where it’s arguably easier to be cynical and question motives but when you experience such levels of kindness first-hand, it’s difficult to keep doing that.
So far, I’ve encountered women who have happily and willingly offered to drive boxes of sanitary products many miles, for no reason whatsoever beyond helping deliver them to a school. (Which was particularly useful when my car failed its MOT. Sob.) There’s the wonderful lady who has hand-stitched dozens and dozens of cotton pouches and drawstring bags for school girls to put their sanitary products in, sparing blushes and potential embarrassment. It’s the woman who had never ran a race before, who felt inspired to pick up her trainers and run for us to raise money. It’s the local artists who have off-their-own-backs donated x% of their profits to us. It’s the seven-year-old who spent her pocket money on boxes of sanitary towels because she wanted to help girls the same age as her big sister.
Total, pure kindness. It’s everywhere.
Just because you haven’t encountered it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist
It’s kind of like the tree in the woods – if it falls and you didn’t see or hear it, did it really happen? Yeah, it probably did. I’ll hold my hands up and admit that I had never considered period poverty as ‘a thing’ until I started reading about it, during a holiday in Greece last year. I, at the grand old age of 28, had never considered that some women couldn’t afford sanitary products, yet alone that some teenagers were so impacted by period poverty that they missed school time every month, purely because of it.
There are all sorts of causes out there that centre around concerns that, if you hadn’t encountered them yourself, you would probably never have considered. That’s not to say you don’t care or that you’re ignorant or anything else like that, of course. It simply means that you haven’t experienced it. Once you begin to dig beneath the surface, it’s as heartbreaking as it is inspiring to see all the organisations that are out there – from loneliness to baby banks (think foodbands but for baby supplies, rather than financial organisations targeted at newborns), green area maintenance to dog-walking for the vulnerable, reading to the elderly to offering phoneline support to the vulnerable…
In short, there’s a lot out there. If you have the time, the inclination and the desire to do something for no reason other than helping others, give it some thought and work out what you’re passionate about. It might be dogs, it might be helping the elderly, it might be campaigning on behalf of libraries. It might be setting up a Facebook group for local mums who want somewhere they can chat; it might be launching a social club for people with anxiety. Whatever it is, find your ‘thing’ and if you can, do it.
Everything brilliant will begin as just an idea
Maybe you’ve identified something that’s missing in your home town. Whether it’s a general service or something targeted towards a specific demographic, you might have noticed that it’s severely lacking, and you want to do something about it. But how?
This is my in-a-nutshell recipe for kicking things off: please note that it’s incredibly idealised and makes things sound too easy. But no less: first of all, work out exactly what your idea is: write it down, leave it for a couple of days and come back to it. Re-read your idea. Research equivalents of what you’ve identified – is anyone else doing similar in your town? Your county? Anywhere in the country? Come up with a catchy name, design a quick logo on Canva.com and set up social media platforms – Facebook is probably the best one to start with, as it’s more community-driven. Invite all your friends to ‘like’ your page, contact local press to cover your story, build up an online community who are ready and willing to help IRL… And voila.
Of course, it’s really not as easy as this makes it sound, and you’re going to need to do some work. Probably a lot of work, actually. It might even take over your life for a bit, in a way. But I can guarantee you one thing – you won’t regret or begrudge a moment of it.
PS – please follow The Red Box project on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/theredboxprojectuk/
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