What if you couldn’t afford pads or tampons? What if every time you got your period, you had to find the nearest Tim Hortons or McDonalds for paper rolls to stuff between your legs? How long until the blood leaks through?
One afternoon last year, Londoner Kathleen Carmichael heard an interview about a woman helping the homeless community get through their menstrual cycle in Calgary. “She was giving out pads to homeless women.”
Hearing this interview, Carmichael thought, “Wow, I’ve worked with the homeless community in London for about 20 years and not once has a woman said to me that she needs pads… it’s a taboo topic, people are shy to talk about it, to say they need it when they do.”
That’s when Carmichael decided it was time for change.
A year ago in February, Kathleen Carmichael started Pads 4 People London with a friend and her sister who gave her $50 to buy pads and underwear. They distributed feminine products every week until the past summer when they decided to go twice a month.
“People want to hide it, so we’ve been going, people expect us in places. We follow the Salvation Army food truck. We just follow it to the places it goes.”
There are two package options to choose from: a ziplock bag with 20 tampons and 4 overnight pads or a ziplock bag with 20 regular pads and 4 overnight pads.
“Each bag comes with a sticker labelled who they are from so people know that it is us and our products are safe and clean,” explains Carmichael.
Throughout the entire experience, Carmichael learned a specific lesson multiple times while working in the community, “To see how grateful people are for something. It’s humbling. There’s no other way to describe it.”
Carmichael encourages students to come out and see what it is like, to see in another perspective, “It’s hard to understand while all your life you’ve lived at home and all you had to do was go into the washroom, open the cupboard under the sink and take out your supplies.”
The first time Carmichael went out to distribute pads in the London community, she did not know what the response would be like but they were thrilled. She says the first time was a real satisfaction, to know there was a need and that Pads 4 People was going to fill it.
“When you think about it, we don’t think about it. We never thought about this. There are five girls in my family, plus my mother, six women. We’re only two years apart, we went through that time together. We took this for granted, we never thought of it.”
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved and help the homeless community in London get through their periods.
“When you’re face to face there with other people, it makes it real. When we touch another person’s humanity, we touch our own.”
– Kathleen Carmichael, Pads 4 People London