We Supply Native American Students with Period Supplies When They Cannot Afford and Don’t Have Ready Access to Them
The note we got from our warm and lovely educator-contact at the Wyoming Indian Schools sums up best what we are all about:
How wonderful! We have distributed all the supplies we have gotten so far to all 3 buildings in our district, this was done before the students returned for the new school year. We had young women that needed supplies on the very first day of school, we were prepared thanks to The Kwek Society and your donors!
Our school has seen an increase in enrollment, the middle school and high school are at almost full capacity, which is amazing. Our current numbers of girls in elementary, middle school, and high school is 205 young women. This is a huge increase from last year, as a result, the efforts of The Kwek Society are greatly appreciated. The nurses have been especially grateful for the underwear that they can distribute to the students.
The Kwek stickers are in our bathrooms to remind our students of The Kwek Society and all the hard work everyone is doing to ensure that they are here regardless of circumstances beyond their control.
Here is a comment from one of our students :
“I wasn’t going to come to school today because I didn’t have anything (period supplies) until I remembered that sometimes you have stuff in your library. So I came and the nurse gave me a whole package and a pretty bag for the package, now the boys on the bus won’t know what’s in the bag. I’m glad I came today.”
K-8th Grade Student
HoHou, Pila Maya, Hooweehoo, Thank You, for all of your efforts, fundraising, community building, and thoughtfulness on behalf of our young women.
Jenn Runs Close To Lodge
Wyoming Indian Schools
In late November 2019 we were awarded a $2,500 Winter Assistance grant by MissionBox, a knowledge and connection hub for nonprofits and charities from around the world, to send the students we serve special, pre-holiday shipments of period products. With the granted funds, we shipped 635 pairs of underwear, 5192 pads, 2902 tampons, 3350 liners, and 300 of our moon time bags filled with pads and liners to students in 15 of the schools and programs we support, with a request that the students’ teachers, staff and program managers encourage students to take home as many supplies as they need through the holiday break.
Many of our students experience food insecurity during the holidays. With MissionBox’s help, we are thrilled to be in a position to eliminate their adjacent concern about addressing their periods in a dignified way while on holiday break.
Following on that grant, one of our schools’ principals, Delores P. Bitsilly, Principal, Tohaali Community School, Newcomb, NM, wrote this about the needs of Native communities such as her own:
- The long distances to stores to buy supplies.
- The lack of reliable transportation for our families.
- The low socioeconomics of our families.
- The assistance it will provide for teaching opportunities for our students.
- [It provides] assistance to our schools that have limited finances.
If you’re wondering how we got from 0 to close to 40 schools and community partners in a little over a year, here’s a short history of our work to date:
In late January 2019 we sent 10 boxes of period supplies, sports bras, underwear and first-period supply/celebration kits to students in 9 New Mexico schools.
Just before Valentine’s Day 2019 we sent 110 sewn-with-love moon-time, personal-to-go kits to fifth-grade students in the Shiprock, New Mexico elementary schools, supporting their school nurse’s upcoming personal hygiene meeting with the students.
We sent a 12th box of bras to students and mothers served by a community-based nonprofit, First Families Now, based in Porcupine, South Dakota.
The bras that we sent all came from Dana Marlowe and our friends at I Support the Girls. We were thrilled that I Support the Girls came through for us again, after sharing with us in November 2018 scads of pads, LOLA liners for this same group of recipients.
Earlier in January we formally entered an arrangement with the School Board of New Mexico’s Central Consolidated School District, in the heart of the beautiful Four Corners region of San Juan County in the northwest corner of New Mexico, to meet the period product needs of CCSD students who can’t afford supplies. The school district serves approximately 6,000 Navajo Nation students in 15 schools, plus early childhood preschools, and covers nearly 3,000 square miles. These schools have some of the most awesome school nurses who have been guiding us about the needs of their students.
Our New Mexico schools partnership began in September 2018, when we supplied students with almost 1400 tween pads and tampons, with the guidance of school nurse Cathy Manus LPN. We had the honor of spending time with Cathy and other Four-Corners-area school nurses, administrators, and students, in April 2019, for our first ever set of site visits. You can read more about our visits here.
Our first outreach to Native American students was to students attending Wounded Knee District School, in Manderson, South Dakota. In June 2018 we supplied 200 tampons; to start the school year, we sent another 400 to Wounded Knee District School students in September 2018. We followed up in January 2019 with a shipment of pads and underwear and sent pads, puberty-education books, moon time bags and underwear at the start of the 2019-2020 school year. We will continue to resupply the students as needed
Further, in November 2018 we supplied moon bags/period kits and pads to students in Pottawatomie County, Oklahoma, and since then have committed to providing quarterly supplies to these students as needed. We also began supporting the Nowata, Oklahoma public school students around this same time.
You can watch a newsclip, and read the transcript, of a local Oklahoma news channel’s coverage of our initial foray into Oklahoma, here.
In April 2019 we stepped up to do more in Oklahoma, adopting the students in Oklahoma City Public Schools’ MyLife Girls Afterschool Program, after being introduced to OKCPS Native American Student Services Director Star Yellowfish. And in late April 2019 we added Sovereign Community School to our roster of school partners. SCS is a community- designed charter school free and open to all kids and families with a specific mission to serve and impact the intertribal Indigenous community of Oklahoma City. Thanks to our generous donors, the school was stocked with period and other hygiene supplies when it opened its doors to 6th and 9th grade students in August 2019. In early December 2019, we resupplied the students and the school health center.
Right before the close of the 2018-2019 school year we agreed to partner with three Wyoming Indian Schools that serve Shoshone and Arapaho students living on the Wind River Indian Reservation. We were able to provide period supplies for students to take home with them as they left school for summer break and have jumped in with more period supplies in time for the new school year. In August 2019 we partnered with a fourth Wyoming school, Fort Washakie School, supplying students with our moon time bags (shout out to Fremont County School District, which operates the school, for including in its school budget period supplies for menstruating students!).
We started academic year 2019-2020 by adding additional partners: the first was our first Bureau of Indian Education-operated school — To’haali’ Community School, in Newcomb, New Mexico. To’haali’ serves Dine/Navajo Nation students in K-8 grades. Shortly after, a second BIE-operated school, Ojo Encino Day School, in Cuba, New Mexico partnered with us. We also began work with a school board member and school administrator to provide the 4th-6th graders attending Shawnee Public Schools in Shawnee, Oklahoma our moon time bags, underwear, and puberty-education books.
Our moon time bags and underwear ready for Shawnee Public Schools 4th to 6th graders
In late 2019 we began supporting Native students in Ontario Province, Canada who attend Parry Sound High School, and in early 2020 we added Mason Public Schools in Mason, Oklahoma and Chemawa Indian School in Salem, Oregon as partner schools. All told, we are supporting students living in five US states and one Canadian province and we are just getting started! Please help us do more! Money donations give us the most flexibility to meet students’ needs.
Pad drives conducted by volunteers also are terrific as they not only get us needed supplies, they spread the word throughout the community about students’ need and our work to support them. Here’s a photo of the recent “haul” collected by Genesis Lazo from her contacts in Northern Virginia.
These contacts included staff of the immigration law firm Just Neighbors in Annandale, Virginia and members of the Young Professionals Program, Leadership Center for Excellence, Arlington, in which Genesis participates. Thank you, Genesis, for your time, leadership, and these supplies!