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Wilfrid Laurier University Leaf
October 20, 2014
 
 
Canadian Excellence

WLU social work students donate tampon tower to Kitchener women’s shelter



Story and photo by Melissa Tait, Record staff

With nearly eight feet of tampons towering above them, five Wilfrid Laurier students laughed as they tried to maintain hold on an armload of tampon boxes. The students, all in first year of their masters of social work, collected over 1,200 tampons and pads — and $80 in cash — to donate to Mary’s Place, a women’s homeless shelter in Kitchener. “It just popped into (group member) Jill’s head, ‘let’s do a tampon tower’ and we all kind of laughed,” said member Shannon Hampton. “And then we said, ‘yeah, let’s do a tampon tower!’ ” As part of their first year community interventions course the students were responsible for creating a project that impacted on the community. They decided to focus on women’s issues, and after some research discovered the lack of feminine hygiene products available at Mary’s Place. “We don’t think of a lot of things that people experiencing homelessness might need, like shampoo, soap and tampons,” student Julie Hansen said.“Housing women and families in a 60-bed shelter can really add up.”
The group erected an eight-foot plastic tube in the WLU faculty of social work building. Over the course of last week, they encouraged students and staff to pack tampons and pads into the tower. Jill Shakespeare, who first suggested the idea, said she wanted to incorporate art into the project and “create a buzz.” “Tampons are, not a taboo, but it’s something that people don’t talk about,” she said. “So putting it out in the lobby made it, kind of in-your-face.” Hansen said their goal wasn’t just the act of donating the products, but raising awareness of the daily need for hygiene products. “People experiencing homelessness are people just like you and me, and they have the same needs as you and me. It’s just that we happen to take a lot of those things for granted.” Hansen said the students don’t have “immediate plans” to expand the project, but they have discussed taking it out into the wider community in the future.
Kitty Piltman, a community co-ordinator at Mary’s Place, said there was a serious shortage of tampons over the last four months. She said the shelter is underfunded and doesn’t have a large budget, so food and other necessities take precedence over hygiene products. “When (the residents arrive) they get a bag of necessities,” said Piltman. “If we don’t get the donations, then they don’t get the pads.” Piltman was glad this issue was being raised with the student’s project, and she said more education around homelessness is important. “Homelessness isn’t just about a roof over your head, it’s about self-esteem. “If you expect (someone at the shelter) to go look for housing or a job and they don’t have any hygiene products ... Who wants to go look for a job then?”

This article and photograph originally appeared in The Waterloo Region Record on November 3, 2010 and has been reprinted with The Record’s Permission.