Feature by Nyanhial Yang
Content Writer at Casper & Casper
The Dignity Kit project – helping Melbourne’s homeless women
“There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward”
It was just on a year ago that Dr Tanya Cates watched a documentary about all the ways homelessness impacts women, particularly when they don’t have access to sanitary products. She was so moved and disturbed by these images that she decided to do something about it.
What is The Dignity Kit project?
Tanya and her co-founder friend Kerry McKendrick decided to hold a monthly get-together with her gal pals, focus on giving back some dignity to homeless Melbourne women. Together with the help of the Salvation Army, they resolved to create The Dignity Kit; packs filled with feminine hygiene essentials.
Tanya and her team called on all their combined networks to create the kits, with Aussie retail giant Cotton On climbing on-board by donating a year’s supply of underwear. The ladies then connected with the Salvation Army to arrange distribution to women living tough on the streets of Melbourne.
So far, the venture has been an enormous success. Of it, Tanya says:
“The response has been great. We sourced everything from feminine hygiene products to undies to toothpaste to help these girls get a little dignity back. Suppliers and friends have been great at donating time, money and products.
Currently, we do 80-85 per month and have been going for 14 months so far. We have done special winter kits with scarves and socks, summer kits with sunscreen and Christmas kits with lip gloss moisturizer.”
Casper doing its part
On June 28, Casper studios hosted Tanya Cates and her Dignity Kit crew for a special night of giving back.
It was an incredible success, and the energy in the studio was so sincere and moving. It was such a privilege to participate! It really warmed my heart to see people taking such initiative to help others in the spirit of giving … and having a whole lot of fun while doing it! Throughout the night, it was also evident that these girls love hanging out with each other to assemble these kits. The fact that they go to women in need is a HUGE bonus!
The work these women do really resonates with us here at Casper. We firmly believe meaningful contributions are an essential part of human nature as it fuels our soul. Giving is also more than just the act. There is something very natural and organic about helping someone in the spirit of love and compassion without egotistical intent.
This is precisely why we love The Dignity Kit crew so much. They have been quietly doing their part and giving back to the community for some time and it was an absolute pleasure to host them.
Check out some cute snaps from the night below as well as our studio chat with Tanya.
Dr Tanya Cates co-founder of The Dignity Kit
- What inspired you to start?
Inspiration hit me one day when I was standing in the supermarket whining to myself that I couldn’t find my organic tampons. I stood back and just thought ‘Get over yourself. The cost of a packet is the same as a meal for someone!’ I also reflected on the fact that I had left home at a very young age, but how fortunate I was to not be in a situation where hygiene was a concern.
I knew about The Period Project, however, I wanted to do something that didn’t require the commercial angle. I wanted to do something for women, containing items they felt were necessary from their perspective, all put together and driven by people who just wanted to help for the sake of helping, nothing more (well, the team are motivated by food and good company which we happily provide J!).
I had also watched a video about women on the street in New York and how they stayed clean. I got to talking with a client of mine, Kerry (who is now a great friend!) who had also seen the video and told her I wanted to do something to help. It was important to me that I worked alongside someone who also had the intention to help for the sake of the cause, and nothing else.
Kerry kindly funded the initial starting phase and found contacts to distribute the kits. It was from here that we each tapped into our networks and managed to secure donations for the kits’ contents, along with people willing to give up their time to get them to the ladies.
- Why is it important to you?
It is important to me because hygiene is a basic human right. Everyone deserves a sense of self-dignity and an opportunity to feel clean, not to mention how necessary it is to avoid disease. To be able to take care of yourself is empowering, and reminds you of your importance, confidence and ability.
It was also important for me to directly understand from the perspective of these women about what they needed and what their daily challenges are. This is not just a young women’s issue. It crosses the lifespan as women also suffer incontinence on the streets.
- What are your hopes for homeless women?
I think people often start these projects with lofty ideas of change. But for me, talking to the women when planning the kit put things back into perspective.
My hopes are now are simple – it’s all about comfort, even if it is just for a moment. I want to help these women feel a little more comfortable and along the way, hope they will see there is someone out there that cares enough to help them in the way that they would like to be helped.
Basic, simple things like running water, sanitary products, underwear and socks can so easily be taken for granted. How often in our day do we stop to be truly grateful for tampons and knickers? Probably not ever! The other thing is the brand of the products and colour of the knickers quickly becomes irrelevant when looking through the lenses of women without a home.
- Who helps you distributes the kits?
The Salvation Army Melbourne Project 614 with the support of Sandra Nottle and her amazing team. This group run an outreach program for women on the streets in the city area and they do a wonderful job gifting the kits the women. Women can also come into the Salvation Army at 69 Bourke Street to collect the kits. The word has fortunately spread that they are available.
We have been so lucky to have a number of businesses provide product for the kits and a number of ladies generously donate their time to allow this project to come to life. It is truly a privilege to watch all the people involved in The Dignity Kit enjoy working for the cause of the women.
We thank the women for allowing us to help them too.
Our final word
Today, let the actions of The Dignity Kit crew inspire you to give for the sake of giving … and discover the simple, pure and exhilarating joy in that!
If you would like to be a part of the Dignity Kit click the link The Dignity Kit
Dr Tanya Cates @fitadvisortc
Feature by Nyanhial Yang @yangnyanhial
Edited Renee Lunder@misnomer_12
Photography by Jess Middleton @jessmiddletonphoto
Copyright © of Casper & Casper 15.8.2018