Croydon Red Box Project ‘making a great difference already’ in fight against period poverty

Croydon’s Red Box Project is crowdfunding to provide free sanitary products for young women in local schools, having raised just £40 out of its £200 goal.

The Red Box Project is a community-based, not-for-profit initiative, which aims to support young people throughout their periods by providing red boxes filled with free period products to local schools.

Vanessa Vernon (pictured above), a 31-year-old personal stylist and youth worker from Croydon, set up the Red Box Project in her city centre in September 2018.

She said: “I felt that there was a need to look after young girls. I remember when I was at secondary school, I used to wonder why some people in my year weren’t in class at certain times of the month. For someone who is struggling financially, I can’t imagine how it must feel to be unable to afford sanitary products.”

Currently St Thomas Catholic School and St Mary’s Catholic High School have a red box.

Ms Vernon said: “Schools have been really good. Obviously, it’s hard because they’re so busy, but often teachers are having to buy these products for children out of their own pockets.

“I feel it’s made a great difference already, and they really appreciate what the project is doing.

“We want every school in Croydon to have a Red Box and be aware of period poverty.”

Alongside local schools, there are additional donation points in Woolich and Old Coulsdon, with further drop off locations being proposed.

Ms Vernon added: “The response has been quite positive so far, but a few people don’t really understand that there is such a thing as period poverty – that’s what we’re really trying to tackle. We want to raise awareness that it is actually happening.

“For women that time of the month isn’t a luxury – it’s what we go through! It’s so important. It’s a basic human need and I don’t think anyone should have to go without sanitary products. We really rely on donations from the community.”

Recent statistics from Plan International have revealed that 15% of girls have struggled to afford menstrual products, with 12% admitting to improvising due to affordability issues.

The crowd funding page was established for those who are unable or unwilling to go out and buy products.

Ms Vernon explained: “I’ve had some male community members who have recognised that there is a need, but have given me money instead to buy what we feel is needed.”

The money collected goes towards donations, such as sanitary towels and knickers, and covers the hidden costs of running the project, such as laminating and printing.

Outside of Croydon, there are currently 18 Red Box projects in London and it’s clear that the scheme has great potential for success.

This week The Red Box Project in Merton publicised that it has received more donations of sanitary products than is needed, and is actually oversupplied.

It was announced that donation points at Commonside Trust, Sainsburys Merton, Coffee in the Wood, Sainsburys Morden and Tariro Café Morden will no longer be accepting donations.

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