Hello everyone! My name is Leah, and I am a current high school junior from Rhode Island who has just gotten involved with TOP. Over spring break, I traveled to Cape Town, South Africa with my family, a place I have been going to for many years. My father is originally from Cape Town, and my parents’ work takes them back to the city often enough that I have come to consider it a second home; I even lived there for a year during middle school. This year, I took with me a dozen boxes of TOP products to give to girls participating in an organization I work with in Cape Town called Waves for Change. The organization teaches children to surf as a way of improving their own feelings of belonging, trust and confidence in themselves, and overall mental health. In townships in South Africa, formal social services are few and far between, meaning that surf therapy has become these children’s primary way of accessing mental health care.
I was inspired to give back to the girls at Waves for Change after learning that both participants and coaches are unable to participate while on their period due to a cultural fear of tampons that keeps them out of the water. They also know that the men around them will know why they aren’t participating, which makes the girls stay away from the program altogether, avoiding land activities and choosing instead to stay home for the week. My hope is that the donation allows both coaches and participants to attend on a more regular basis; when the girls miss the program because they are on their period, they are missing valuable mental health services, and when the coaches miss the program, they are missing both the chance to interact with the kids and also the opportunity to receive a paycheck from that day.
This issue is important to me because I firmly believe that no girl, no matter her economic status, should be forced to step back from her life every month because of something as little as her period. It shocks me that there continue to be such stark disparities in the quality of life girls lead while on their periods; my friends and I are able to go to school, sports, and social events, but girls all around the world (including in Rhode Island) are barred from doing these things simply because they do not have access to the right products. My donation to Waves for Change was my small way of attempting to change that reality.