Have you ever wondered how homeless women deal with their period?

Not many people do, and few think about donating feminine hygienic products to shelters and women in need. But that’s all changing thanks in part to a social movement called #HappyPeriod, and to American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (AUC) student Nikole Czapp who is leading the movement in Miami.  

#HappyPeriod was established about two years by Chelsea Vonchaz in Los Angeles. At that time, Chelsea was driving down skid row—which hosts one of the largest populations of homeless people in the country—when she noticed a woman on her period who clearly lacked access to hygienic products. Believing that everyone deserves dignity, she began collecting and handing out hygienic care packages to women on the street. Eventually, Chelsea named and expanded the drive as more and more people joined in.

One of those people was Nikole Czapp. After stumbling upon #HappyPeriod, Czapp knew it would be an extremely valuable campaign in Miami, a city with more than 4,200 homeless people. After reaching out to Chelsea, she quickly offered to start a #HappyPeriod chapter in Miami and began gathering the support of her AUC peers.

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Czapp and her classmates represent a handful of AUC students who choose to do their clinical rotations in the Miami area. Through an affiliation with the Center for Haitian Studies (CHS), AUC students can complete all of their core rotations and electives at CHS and other Miami-area hospitals.  

With the help of Zerith McMillan, Senior Regional Clinical Advisor at AUC, Czapp placed collection boxes in various CHS classrooms and asked students to donate pads, tampons, wipes, soap, and underwear. She also recruited the help of Jolie Organic, an organic feminine essentials company based in Miami. Over five weeks, she collected enough donations to host a kick-off event on Saturday, August 20.

“Nikole is mature beyond her years and brings a sense of ownership and pride to every project and clinical rotation she has taken at CHS. It was an honor to assist her in such a noble cause.” –Zerith McMillan, Senior Regional Clinical Advisor at AUC

Sixteen people showed up (the majority AUC students) and spent their morning assembling more than 70 kits—each designed to cover one monthly cycle. Volunteers then took to the street to handout the kits to homeless women near Jackson Hospital and made stops at two local shelters: Lotus House and Miami Rescue Mission House. One of the shelters received two large bags of donated products. Another 20 kits were left for patients at CHS, which cares for an underserved population in the Little Haiti neighborhood.
 
“The women we met were so appreciative and surprised,” said Czapp. “It was a memorable day—not just because of what we were doing but also because of the support from my peers and other people in the community.”

Jolie Organic, for instance, graciously donated 50 boxes of pads on the day of the event.

Czapp is continuing to fill #HappyPeriod kits in Miami before eventually passing the torch to another AUC student. She will return to her hometown of Philadelphia later this month before traveling to Michigan and New York to finish her last three elective rotations. She already has plans to start a #HappyPeriod chapter in Philadelphia but, before she goes, Czapp will present a poster on #HappyPeriod and her findings at the 2016 Beyond Flexner Conference in Miami.

When asked about her future ambitions, Czapp’s passion for women’s and children’s health shines through. She plans to apply for a residency in family medicine and eventually hopes to specialize in Maternal Child Health. One day, she wants to return to the island of St. Maarten, where AUC’s campus is based, and help the community that welcomed her in as a medical student.

For more information on #HappyPeriod, visit hashtaghappyperiod.org. If you are in the Miami or Philadelphia area and want to connect with Nikole Czapp about volunteering, you can email her at NikoleCzapp@students.aucmed.edu.
 

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Shannon Toher

Posted September 07, 2016 08:43 PM

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