International Nonprofit Provides Support For Homeless & Low-Income Women
Writer / Kelly Young Photographer / Michael Durr
Ask Rachael Heger about her career as the National Director of Affiliate Outreach for the international nonprofit, I Support the Girls, and she will tell you that she fell into the job by accident. What started out as a New Year’s resolution to collect 3,500 bras by her 35th birthday in January 2016 has turned into her life’s work.
She has taken what she calls a “hypothetical hobby” and become anaccidental advocate in two significant areas — one is homelessness and dignity for girls and the other is menstrual health management and menstrual hygiene for homeless and low-income women – both are critical in helping women restore their dignity during a very devastating time.
In just four years, I Support the Girls has created an impressive global movement. The organization has grown to 58 affiliates in the U.S. and abroad, and they have distributed more than 8,800,000 products to 850,000 girls and women worldwide.
COVID-19 has certainly challenged the organization. They have seen an increase of 35% in demand because of the pandemic. According to Heger, there is a waitlist for more product right now.
“Periods don’t stop because of a global pandemic,” Heger says. “We’re doing all that we can to address the need and encourage even more people to get involved and support our efforts.”
One way to do that is through their D.A.S.H. (Dignity, Aid, Safety, and Hygiene) Kits. These care packages are created specifically for women who have recently fled an abusive situation. Many times, a woman’s safety plan involves leaving everything behind. If they do pack a bag, menstrual hygiene products are not often included. In fact, Heger shared that on the lists of essentials to pack provided by domestic violence organizations, not one mentioned menstrual hygiene products. Understandable. They are bulky, replaceable, expensive, and not a priority. However, they are necessary.
The D.A.S.H. Kits cost $25 to ship to a survivor. Each kit includes new pairs of underwear, bras, a three-month supply of the menstrual products of their choice, a cloth mask, a special toiletry item, and a bag to hold everything. It is their hope that the kits will provide comfort, and a base from which survivors of domestic violence and intimate partner violence can begin to rebuild their lives.
Individuals who wish to donate can do so on their website, isupportthegirls.org/dashkits. The same site can be used by a survivor who can confidentially request a kit.
Looking ahead to 2021, Heger is hopeful.
“If what we’ve accomplished in just four short years is any indication of what we can do, I’m confident our impact will continue to grow,” Heger adds. “While we have a lot of work ahead of us, I am very optimistic. People are good and they want to help us.”
Rachel lives in Meridian-Kessler with her husband and 8-year-old daughter. She’s one local resident who doesn’t mind walking out of her house and seeing bags of bras and boxes of pads left on her porch, donated by family, friends, and people in the community who want to help make a difference.
“Every bra, pad, and panty makes a difference!” she says.