Katherine Arroyo on Putting an End to Shame Surrounding Menstruation
Interview with Katherine Arroyo, Founder of 4 Women Ovary Where, a non-profit that is providing menstrual hygiene kits to anyone on need.
“Homeless people just need someone to listen to them and care. Many homeless people come from a hurt place and have been put out by many people so they are very protective and are in survival mode. They are people too! I want people to know that this could happen to anyone, they could one day be the ones who need help.” — Katherine Arroyo
Katherine is a young 20-year old lesbian women who has always wanted to help and impact others around her in a positive and motivating way. She wanted to do something to give back to her community and after looking into what areas lacked certain resources, she noticed that menstrual supplies are the least donated item to homeless people. It is usually not an item people think about when donating toiletries and usually homeless people need to make a special request to receive such items, which can be a barrier.
As this is the case, they often have to make their own tampons out of toilet paper, chip bags or socks. In the rare chance they are able to get a few tampons they are at a higher risk of getting infections such as toxic shock syndrome for keeping tampons in for too long to keep the bleeding under control. Realizing this, Katherine was heartbroken and knew that this was where she will put her energy and drive in — to provide that extra support to homeless people and reduce the humiliation and discomfort homeless women may face during their periods. So she created and launched the non-profit just a few months ago, 4 Women Ovary Where.
After hearing and looking into this non-profit — I thought that their mission is super important and more people out there should know that such an organization exists. So get to know Katherine Arroyo, a strong and passionate women trying to improve the lives of the less fortunate through her newly founded non-profit!
How did you decide to pursue 4 Women Ovary Where? What were some of the initial reactions you received when starting out?
I saw a gap in the social service system for homeless people who are not receiving necessary hygiene products to allow them to go about their daily lives. Besides the immense stress of living on the streets or shelters, homeless people have to worry every month about getting tampons or pads and it’s really hard to get them. A box of tampons range from $5-$10 dollars which is sometimes half of what they make during the day.
As a student at Cypress College, I thought besides being in school I should utilize the skills I’m learning to good use and be part of an important and a much needed movement — taking the shame and humiliation away from menstruation and providing some much needed support to homeless people in my community.
I started off very small. I am so fortunate to have such a strong support system. I come from a very selfless family who has always done things to help the less fortunate and during my journey I have only received amazing encouragement. Once I was asked, what I was getting out of this, and I thought to myself “Its not about me getting anything, I don’t want anything in return but I am getting the feeling of love”.
How many hygiene products have you distributed since starting out and what have been the reactions from homeless people? Where do you usually distribute
We started in March and since then we have distributed 1,500 hygiene kits. We usually distribute in Downtown Los Angeles, Bellflower, Downey and Whittier, but we are going to start expanding into different cities in LA and OC. People are just happy and thankful, some men even take them for their girlfriends and women that they know might need these resources.
What have been some of the challenges and lessons learned you’ve had since starting out?
Starting my very own non-profit I’ve encountered many challenges. Some of the main ones have been with funding, marketing and getting donations. It’s a bit difficult and disheartening to have people not get as excited as you about your non-profit you created but I’ve learned to keep on believing in myself and push through even when over half of the people I reach out to for asks for funding or donations have said no. I’ve also gotten better at managing my time, being persistent and how to speak my voice and get it heard. No one knows or really thinks about what homeless people go through, especially while on their periods — I want that to change!
What are some successes (or personal successes) you’ve had since starting out?
If I can brighten someones day, no matter how small, I find that a success. I’m here to help and support people who usually don’t get it and have been pushed away by so many people that they have brought their walls way up. So here are some things I’ve heard or experienced that touched my heart:
- At our first drive a lady asked to pray for all of us, she said she doesn’t run into kind-hearted people often. We all gathered in the middle of the street and what she said touched all of our hearts.
- I remember handing a bag to a transgender man and he was so thankful. He told me that many shelters won’t give him menstrual supplies when he goes in.
- We were very fortunate to do a huge drive with a lot of student and teacher support from Downey High School. We were lucky to have met the founder of “Conscious Period”, a company that makes 100% organic cotton tampons. They have both donated a large amount of products to use in our kits.
“There was a woman once who opened her kit and the first thing she did was take out the note that we put in there. In every kit we put a hand written note that will make their day, one that they can keep forever. Every bag is catered to inspire and bring happiness, not only with the resource but with love. It’s a message from someone who cares for them. We are all in this together as 1 human race and sometimes we go through rough patches and its up to each of us to help each other out, lend a hand and make this world a little better with small acts of love and care.”
What are some of your plans for the future of 4 Women Ovary Where? What would you like to see happening in the next 5 years?
We plan to have more volunteers and more drives, giving away more hygiene to people who need it. We hope through our drives and outreach people or organizations would be interested in hosting 4 Women Ovary Where drives, helping us expand our movement and platform.
In the next 5 years we would like there to be actual 4 Women Ovary Where stations/kiosks all over the country where people could just come grab a bag if they needed one. Also, we want people to come together and openly talk about periods, and normalize it!
What are ways people get involved or support 4 Women Ovary Where?
Follow us on social platforms, start your own drives with us, volunteer or set up donation drop off stations at your workplace or school are ways you can get involved and support this movement!
Learn more on out website here: http://www.4womenovarywhere.org/about-us.html or you can chat with us on one of our social media platforms:
Note of Thanks
I would love to thank Katherine for sharing her time and being so open about her experiences in starting up 4 Women Ovary Where and giving us a sneak peak in her non-profit journey!