By Ali Correll
Ashley Beirne is a driven, inspired woman who has identified a critical need that is often neglected and unmet in the majority of the homeless population in our current society. She has gone above and beyond to provide the homeless with period kits, effectively ensuring that many of Denver's homeless population will no longer wonder how they will care for themselves every month when the need arises. This selfless act improves the quality of life around and in Denver, and helps to build and foster the sense of community in which we call home.
What inspired you to start collecting and providing period kits for the homeless?
I grew up very poor with a single mother and 3 siblings, and like so many, we eventually became homeless. We were lucky enough (after being waitlisted) to find beds at the Red Cross Emergency Shelter where we stayed for the next 7 months. It was during this experience that I personally witnessed and felt the impact that just one volunteer or staff could make and, 10 years later, I still remember many of their names.
From ages 15 to 18, every period I had was sustained by the donation and kindness of others. I never thought twice about it. At the end of February this year, I walked past a homeless woman who was around my age while I was on my period and thought: where does she get products? Does she have to use the money she gets for food to purchase products? What does she do about cramps? And leaks?
My mind started racing and I went home and looked for someone who was already meeting this need. To my surprise there wasn't an individual providing this service! I thought that I would do a drive and try to collect enough supplies for one third of the women living on the streets in Denver for a three month supply to try to alleviate any worries.
How does the program work? How do you collect and distribute them?
We have a few different ways to collect products. The first is through collection boxes that local businesses sign up to host and promote. We also have an Amazon wish list, which is kept updated with the items we are in need of, and people can purchase directly from that list and send supplies and donations right to us. Lastly, we use the crowd-fundraising on YouCaring to fund needed items that haven't been donated, like drawstring bags from the Dollar Store. We fill each bag with a 3-month supply of period products and distribute them to those living on the streets around Denver and to programs that serve the homeless, such as Metro Caring, The Empowerment Program, Volunteers of America Colorado, and Father Woody's.
Why is this mission important to you?
As a human, I think it is my job to do what I can for those who are in need. It's important to look at what these people are going through, how they survive, and what their experiences might be like. So often we look away and don't make eye contact because we are afraid that we might feel something or we may feel called to action. It is important and crucial to me that I support these women in a way that lets them know that we are thinking of them, they are not forgotten, and that we love them.
What's at stake for the women you're supporting?
The women we support often have no other resources for products. What we've heard is that women have gone as far as digging through the trash for napkins to use as pads, or even leaves to help sustain their periods. Imagine only having 1 pair of underwear and leaking through it. So many of these women have told us that it directly effects their self-esteem and sense of dignity, which are two things that are critical to maintaining a healthy and hopeful mental state.
Get involved! Find Ashley at:
Amazon Prime Wishlist: http://a.co/gprnjSa