Courtesy Alycia Two Bears
Nov. 14, 2022
Nursing students hold donation drive for menstruation products for vulnerable and unhoused Calgarians
A group of second-year nursing students at UCalgary are currently running a donation drive for menstruation and hygiene products with community health partner The Moss Bag Project to provide products for unhoused and vulnerable Calgarians.
The Moss Bag Project is an Indigenous, inclusive non-profit organization that engages in activities like providing scholarships for post-secondary education and pre/post-natal, child-rearing sessions for Indigenous families. Two years ago, Alycia Two Bears, director of birth and traditional wellness and board member with The Moss Bag Project, co-created the Moon Time Bag initiative with a friend to ensure unhoused Calgarians have access to menstruation products.
“The bags were met with such gratitude that it became very clear to me this needed to be more than a one-time event,” she says. “Through social media, friends creating fundraisers, donations of both supplies and monetary funds, news coverage, and dedicated volunteers/friends, the project had been maintained for two years, moving from monthly to weekly/as needed support.”
Two Bears says that volunteers typically make a minimum of 12 bags a week but sometimes up to 40 Moon Time Bags are created to have inventory for Bear Clan Friday night patrols. She says whenever there are extra supplies, they also occasionally support Good Neighbour YYC.
“We just recently started to support Red Road Radicals Street Patrols and select schools in the Calgary Board of Education,” says Two Bears.
I hope it prevents petty theft charges from stores, to meet a basic, involuntary body need. That people feel valued by community members and allies they don't know.
“I added sage smudge as it's often viewed as ‘women's’ medicine in a variety of teachings, meaning, everyone can use it while bleeding. Access to traditional medicines is something houseless kin do not have ease of access to, and this is a reminder that the Land still holds them.”
Nursing student Shayla Sugden says the care packages are important for multiple reasons. “People menstruate regardless of whether or not they can afford the hygiene products they need. Working with Alycia and The Moss Bag Project has been a really exciting experience because it gave us a chance to do something ‘hands-on' and really feel what kind of impact we are helping to make on the community.
“One major component of community health nursing which we have learned a lot about this term is advocating for social justice,” Sugden adds. “I think the issue of period poverty is one that doesn't get talked about a lot for many reasons. Some people are uncomfortable talking about menstruation, and some might not even think, or care, about the issue.
The Moon Time Bags also provide emotional support for houseless and vulnerable people during their period of menstruation or their moon time, to ensure that they are not alone, and they are supported.
UCalgary Nursing’s partnership with Two Bears was originally facilitated by assistant professor Merilee Brockway, who connected with Two Bears around her work with urban Indigenous mothers. Brockway was exploring opportunities to collaborate on potential infant feeding projects and then introduced Two Bears to nursing instructor Jenny Langille.
Langille is teaching community health course N289 and her clinical group is working on a network map of all the infant feeding services in Calgary by conducting an environmental scan of those resources for families. Working to collect donations for the Moon Time Bags was identified as a reciprocity project to build engagement with Two Bears and her community while she spent time speaking with the students about infant feeding resources for urban Indigenous mothers.
“We thought it would be a great experience to collect donations and help put together Moon Time bags for those in need,” says Langille.
These are some of the most basic aspects of health that are not exclusive to those with the financial means or who identify as a woman. Menstruation affects anyone with a uterus and everyone deserves access to hygiene products. Imagine being unhoused/homeless and not having the means to purchase these products and having your period.
“As an instructor, I have watched my students grow a non-judgmental and inclusive sense of being and vocabulary,” says Langille. “They have learned to communicate and interview those in the community, aligning with their values and beliefs, goals and being part of something bigger.”
Of the support from UCalgary nursing students, Two Bears says, “It's been easy to work with the nursing students. They made the posters full of enthusiasm for the project. I asked for this project to be supported as an act of reciprocity, while they host me as a guest speaker on Indigenous chest/milk feeding, and they fulfilled the ask without hesitation.”
Nursing student Zoe Lamouche says the whole experience has allowed her to hone her communication skills. “This experience will help me be more outgoing, in my helping of other people and talking to others, as well as standing up for those that are more susceptible to unneeded hate and prejudice, so being an advocate and supporting those that need it.”
Lamouche says while they are looking for more tampons and pads mainly, foot and hand warmers are also useful donations considering the cold weather. “We are trying to make as many packages as possible so anything helps. We will be packaging the products into Ziploc bags so they are ready to be distributed.”
To date, the students have mostly received donations of pads, tampons and liners but are also looking for donations of the following items:
- Underwear in sizes XS-XXXL
- Overnight pads in regular and long length
- Regular and super tampons
- Chocolate and tea
- Lip balm
- Hand and feet warmers for the colder months
- Deodorant for the warmer months
- Ziplock bags in sizes large and sandwich
Donations boxes are in place in the Professional Faculties Building, Wellness Centre, UCalgary Bookstore and TFDL until Nov. 15. When the drive closes, the students plan to collect the bins and posters and help to assemble the Moon Time Bags.
“The Moon Time Bags help to improve hygiene for people who are unhoused and who are menstruating. But more importantly, it helps to maintain dignity,” says Brockway. “By providing these products, people can meet their basic needs as well as not be faced with having to steal or reuse hygiene products. This helps to address both their physical health and mental well-being.”
The Moon Time Bag initiative takes monetary donations through etransfer or Paypal; please make a note it's a donation for the initiative. Click below for email.