The Navajo Nation has the highest infection rate in the country.
In mid-March Covid-19 shut down all of the schools we support, but our distributions did not stop. A portion of our schools (located in New Mexico, South Dakota and Wyoming) continued to support students through food distributions and brought our supplies to the distribution sites. We resupplied those schools through the spring. We also began distributions to Navajo families through our contact with the Navajo Nation government and included masks sewn by our donors in some of those shipments. We built on our relationship with a global organization focused on ending period poverty, Days for Girls International, and facilitated DFGI’s distribution of thousands more masks to the Navajo Nation through, among others, the Indigenous Goddess Gang.
During this time we also secured our first commitment of monthly support from a foundation, The JJ Metta Memorial Foundation, which is operated from the United States but – until we connected — focused exclusively on the needs of students in India. In addition to obtaining the foundation’s monthly support, The Kwek Society facilitated the foundation’s direct shipments of masks and period products to the Navajo Nation.
In Spring 2020 we got some media attention for our work during COVID. Native News Online reported on us, as did a DC-Maryland-Virginia based news program. The Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development wrote about us in mid-June as one of a number of indigenous women-run groups doing “critical and courageous work” to assist Native communities and Native nations during the pandemic.
The Kwek Society’s delivery of masks and period products to Shiprock, New Mexico for distribution within the Navajo Nation, April 2020.
Our distributions continued throughout the pandemic:
Between March and June, we made 34 separate shipments of period supplies providing a total of 202 pairs of underwear, 53,700 pads, 90,929 liners, 9,665 tampons and 500 masks. Most of the 53,700 pads were donated by the Alliance For Period Supplies and were shipped out directly to New Mexico for distribution to Navajo communities hard hit by Covid-19. Early in 2020 we were invited to become an Allied Program of the Alliance. The Alliance not only got us the huge pad donation, but has provided us with technical support and, in Fall 2020, a truckload of period pain reliever that it delivered to our contacts in the Navajo Nation. We anticipate receiving substantial additional period product donations through the Alliance.
In summer 2020 we received a substantial donation from the Burkehaven Family Foundation that has allowed us to expand our reach while continuing to meet the needs of our established partners. Despite the pandemic, we’ve added partners and we are eager for new partners. We restocked our partner schools for the 2020-2021 academic year with period supplies.
In the last quarter of 2020, we arranged for shipments of masks from The March of Dimes, Americans for Native Americans and The JJ Metta Memorial Foundation, and received donations from many community sewists. This allowed us to supply our partners with 10,756 COVID masks through 2020.
By the numbers:
Despite the pandemic — and assisted by our friends at Code Red Co. (Code Red Collective), Days for Girls International and the JJ Metta Memorial Foundation, and many individual supporters – in 2020 we furnished 303,800 period supplies, 3,429 moon time bags and puberty education books, and those 10,756 masks, in 105 shipments.
Periods don’t stop for pandemics and neither do we! With a sizable grant from The Sparkjoy Foundation at year-end, we were positioned to add even more partners and to continue getting period supplies and masks to the students and other Native American community members to whom we have already made commitments. Thanks to this support, during the first half of 2021 we provided another 139,945 period supplies and 4,263 masks in 13 shipments sent across the country.
At a time when our country was in turmoil with a pandemic, and paper goods, cleaning supplies were scarce, The Kwek Society came though with supplies for our girls. It was a relief for our girls to not have to worry about where they could get their personal supplies, when trips to a store were minimal and distant, as there are no retailers on the reservation.
But what they loved the most were the hand sewn Moon Bags that they could discretely carry their personals with them. They were in their beach bags this summer, and will be in their back packs for school. We are forever grateful to The Kwek Society.
MOON TIME BAGS & MASKS
Meeting all needs.
Sewing support for Native Communities.
Alex Dickman is The Kwek Society’s most prolific seamstress. Alex grew up in Virginia and spent many summers in Oklahoma, visiting her mother’s family and traveling throughout the southwest. She is of Chickasaw descent with family ties to Clovis, New Mexico.
Before her retirement, Alex taught women’s health at George Washington University. Her awareness of health disparities and inequality in the United States drew her to The Kwek Society’s mission. She started sewing moon time bags, stuffing them with pads and liners — and a lot of kindness. Pre-pandemic, Alex’s 14-year-old granddaughter Morgan assisted her. Morgan, like her grandmother, has a passion to help others.
When the pandemic hit, Alex quickly realized the need for masks and once again started sewing for our partners. In 2020, Alex and Morgan produced 227 moon time bags and 2,153 masks! We are so grateful that they dedicated so much time and skill to this work.
You can learn more about The Kwek Society’s mission and the Citizen Potawatomi kwe’k/women behind our moon time bag design and instructional video here.