Charity Spotlight: Changing the Cycle

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Posted By on March 5, 2020

Go With the Flow is there when girls need it

THE STORY

            In 2017, Demetra Presley saw a Facebook video that changed her life. The video showed how a teacher, who was often approached by students asking for menstrual hygiene products, reached out to her social network to collect makeup bags, pads and tampons to make “period packs” to give to her students.

            “The video was shocking to me,” Presley said. “I didn’t know this was a need students had, or something that schools struggled to provide adequate resources for.”

            After seeing the video, Presley felt compelled to find out if this was an issue in Arizona. She contacted friends who worked in schools or had middle or high school-aged children to ask if they knew whether feminine hygeine products were provided at their respective schools. She was frustrated by the answers she received.

            “I learned some schools don’t provide period products at all; some schools charge students for them; or — what’s most common — schools do have a budget for buying pads and tampons, but it’s not enough to meet student needs,” Presley said.

            As a result, school staff often pays for the products themselves or has to ration products they give. That means a student can receive a single pad or tampon, but not enough to get through a day or an entire cycle, making girls susceptible to things like toxic shock syndrome or resorting to using unsanitary items like toilet paper or socks. Some girls skip school altogether.

            “Go With The Flow was created to fill this gap because we believe that students should not have their dignity compromised or their education interrupted because they lack access to a basic hygiene item,” Presley said.

THE CAUSE

            Presley, a federal probation officer by trade, has donated period packs to more than 150 schools through Go With the Flow, the nonprofit she started. Go With the Flow currently provides supplies to schools in Pima, Maricopa and Pinal Counties and has donated more than 20,000 period packs since January 2018.

            Schools decide which items they want, whether they be tampons, pads or panty liners. “We leave it up to the school to decide because they know best what products their students are asking for,” Presley said. “We want to be sure the products provided to a student are ones she will actually use.”

            The packs can make a massive difference in girls’ lives. “Partners have expressed seeing their students’ eyes light up at being given a fun bag that has multiple supplies in it, instead of just one,” Presley said. “It’s opened the door for open discussion about periods with respect to menstrual health and the larger issue of period poverty.”

            Students hold onto their bags and bring them back to school so they can receive additional supplies. There’s no limit to how many period packs a school can receive or how many times they can seek a donation. “For our community partners, being provided period packs has allowed them to have a consistent supply available, or provide a resource that they either hadn’t thought about or didn’t have the means to provide themselves,” Presley said.

THE FUTURE

            Go With the Flow recently opened its first office, which serves as a donation and period resource center. It’s the Valley’s only site dedicated solely to providing free menstrual supplies to community members who need them. (While shelters, food banks and clothing closets provide menstrual supplies, they often don’t have an ample supply because pads and tampons are some of the most underdonated items.)

            Going forward, Presley plans to expand Go With the Flow’s outreach and develop educational materials for schools and community partners. “One of our priorities is to challenge the perception that menstruation is something embarrassing or disgusting,” Presley said. “We’re excited to start working on materials that are not only educational and informational, but empowering and positive.”

            Presley also hopes to get more of the community involved. Because Go With the Flow is donation-based, the more donations the nonprofit receives, the more it can provide supplies to community members who need them. “Donations can be made in the form of monetary contributions or product donations, with our most-needed period supplies being thin pads and regular absorbency tampons,” Presley said. “Another way community members can support us is by word of mouth. As a newer nonprofit, people may not know we are a resource, and we aim to be in as many schools as possible.”

            Presley thinks part of the reason Go With the Flow has grown so rapidly is that it rallies the community around a problem that can be solved. After all, providing feminine hygiene supplies to students or low-income or homeless community members isn’t something that requires extensive legislation or millions of dollars. Go With the Flow has been able to address it at a grassroots level, simply by bringing attention to the issue and providing community members an easy way to help.

            “Community members can pick up an extra box of pads or tampons while they’re doing their grocery shopping, host a donation collection with their friends, or donate products they no longer use, knowing that every one of those donations will go right into the hands of a community member who needs it.”

            To learn more, go to gowiththeflowaz.org.

Karen Werner

About Karen Werner

Karen Werner is the editor of Frontdoors Media. She is a writer, editor and media consultant. She has interned at The New Yorker, worked at Parents Magazine, edited five books and founded several local magazines. Her work has appeared in Sunset, Mental Floss and the Saturday Evening Post.