Hygiene and personal care products for those in need
I’m Emma Thomas, project coordinator for The Hygiene Bank Medway, a project I run from my home in Cliffe Woods.
The Hygiene Bank Strood Medway is a project of a national grassroots charity, like a foodbank but for hygiene products, trying to meet the need locally for those in poverty or crisis. Our ethos is give local, help local. We want to bring communities together to tackle hygiene poverty by providing essential donated products to the vulnerable across the Medway towns in conjunction with our network of charity partners and schools.
Many people living in poverty or those who find themselves in times of a major life crisis often have to make the distressing decision to eat or stay clean because they can’t afford to do both. This is about dignity. We aim to break the stigma of hygiene poverty. It is shaming, humiliating and excluding and can result in social isolation. Hygiene poverty leads to a crippling lack of confidence and negatively affects good health and mental well-being. These can impact early childhood development, learning, employability and social interaction.
The Hygiene Bank encourages people and businesses in Medway to donate essential toiletries, hygiene, beauty and grooming products via drop off points and collector schemes. Our 15 drop off points include local shops, sports centres, community groups and schools or we can accept donations via our online Wishlist.
All these products are collected, sorted and given out to a network of organisations and services that support vulnerable and struggling people. The Hygiene Bank doesn’t give products to individuals directly - we partner with local schools and existing charities such as foodbanks, supported housing schemes, refuges, hostels and social services who then distribute the products to the people they are working with. This means everything donated locally stays in the area and is given out to local families and individuals living in crisis. I support right across Medway.
During coronavirus, communities have never needed each other more and we have seen how we can all play our part. In March, due to the coronavirus and Government restrictions, all my 15 drop off points are closed almost overnight or were inaccessible. This meant that our much-needed donations of hygiene products from the public had completely dried up. Unfortunately, due to the current tough economic environment, the demand for our services from our beneficiary partners significantly increased, with many more demands from new and vulnerable individuals and families. But the community came together, and we adapted by offering a Just Giving Page to enable us to purchase the essentials and an online Wishlist where items were delivered directly to me. It really is heart warming that thanks to local people’s generosity we have coped with increased demand, but we can always do more.