It is with great pleasure that I announce today a new partnership between Feby and Code Red.
Code Red is an organization that provides feminine hygiene products and personal care items to homeless women. It was founded by Ileri Jaiyeoba back when she was in high school (she is currently a freshman at New York University) and I had a chance to interview this inspiring teen recently.
Was there any particular moment or event that happened that inspired you to start Code Red?
At age 15 I was in a very unstable environment for a while and it became even harder because I had really severe menstrual cramps. It was hard doing daily tasks in my environment especially with the pain. When I finally felt comfortable enough to take care of myself during my cycle in a healthy and hygienic way despite the pain, I started volunteering with homeless women. When I stared volunteering I realized that many women do not have the same access to the resources I had to have a comfortable cycle. Understanding their struggles led me to my resolve to make sure that there was nothing stopping a woman from being unstoppable during her period.
Can you describe how you felt when you delivered your first care package? What was the reaction of the receivers?
When I first gave out packages in downtown Atlanta the reaction was really all in the facial expressions I saw. The products were set up on tables in brown bags and women came up asking what was in them, when I said "menstrual products" their eyes widened and they grabbed the bags with a smile on their face saying "thank you." Many of the shelters we gave to in the beginning are very grateful and continue to tell us how generous our organization is. I think getting in touch with the women on a personal level and really empathizing with them plays a really important part in making impact.
How many team members work at Code Red? Are they college students? Volunteers?
The Code Red team is made up of 10 hard working individuals and we had our start in a coffee shop we met at every week! Our volunteers are made up of mostly college students, high school students, and older adults who are familiar with the mission.
How many branches of Code Red are there? If any of our readers are interested in starting a branch can you briefly describe the process and committment they can expect.
We have recently launched an ambassador program on our page for anyone who wants to start a branch at their school or university. For all who apply we send out a start package from our Code Red team as well as an online toolkit explaining how to set up a sanitary drive and reach volunteers. All one has to do is sign up on the website and email us. If one decides to commit, they must be dedicated to reaching out to shelters and recruiting volunteers in their community.
As many are reusable for over a year, have you thought about including menstrual cups in your care packages? Is the biggest obstable for this price point or lack of education on behalf of the women you help or any other reason?
We do receive menstrual cups to donate to shelters, however many of the women in the homeless shelters prefer pads over both tampons and menstrual cups so education on menstrual cups is definitely needed. Most of our sustainable reusable pads go to the refugee centers we give to. Because the products we donate are not all sustainable we only give to temporary shelters and centers that are in great need of the products.
On a personal note, how did you feel when you first got your period? Where you ready and informed? Did you celebrate? Please describe briefly.
When I first got my period I was 10 and the first person I told was my mother. I wasn't very informed beforehand on what was happening so I had mixed feelings of excitement and anxiousness. I knew a little bit of information from the girls in school about starting, but I was basically the first person in my friend group to get my period so I felt pretty awkward about it.
Can you share with us any future goals and plans you have?
Advocacy is a major deal for us right now. We want to use our social media and creative platforms as campaign against the harmful practices that are put on women and girls when they menstruate. We are also working with Pamela Bell founder of Prink shop to launch T-shirt line that will fund the provisions of menstrual products to women in need. The Code Red team is so excited to be sharing some designs soon!
I am a huge fan of this organization and the important but often overlooked work they do. Please help spread the word by liking, sharing and following their social media accounts: