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We spoke to the branch coordinator of the Southampton Red Box Project

Helping combat poverty

It is shocking the amount of girls in school that are embarrassed, missing lessons and education because they cannot afford sanitary products.

The Red Box Project sponsor and stock a red box filled with sanitary towels, tampons and spare pants, kept in the school's reception. As well as this, posters are placed in the girls bathrooms encouraging them to ask for The Red Box and take as much as they need from it to last them their whole period.

We spoke to Vie Portland, the branch coordinator for the Red Box Project in Southampton.

What made you decide to set up the Red Box Project in Southampton?

"I have followed The Red Box Project Facebook page since soon after it founded (in Portsmouth in March this year) and could see what a great job they are doing. I decided to set up a project here in Southampton in June, knowing there was a need in the city."

When was the first box installed?

"I wanted to ensure I was going to get donations in before I committed to a school so I set up the group and started talking about it to people. Most people were shocked that there was such a need in our city and were interested in helping. The first box went in mid-July. Because it was then school holidays, I didn't put the next box in until the end of August. We now have six boxes in schools and colleges, another three going out next week, to two schools, one secondary, one primary, and a youth group, and we'll hopefully get more out soon after. I like to only put boxes out in stages, so I know they can be maintained with the donations; thankfully, due to the wonderful support received, keeping them topped up hasn't been a problem so far."

What goes in the boxes?

"Full packs of sanitary towels and tampons, emergency packs (food bags with individually wrapped towels, tampons and panty liners), new pants, bags or tins to store towels and tampons discreetly, food bags with a new flannel and travel shower gel and some other toiletries such as toothbrush and toothpaste, shampoo, shower gels. Four posters are also included to be put in the toilets to say where the box is."

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The most recent box packing

Did you realise period poverty was such a big issue before you began setting up the scheme?

"I suspected that there was a small issue because I knew there were high levels of poverty but I didn't realise, until I saw the information in The Red Box Project, how bad it was here; I hadn't realised that levels of poverty in Southampton, at 23%, are higher than the national average."

How many regular supporters do you currently have?

"Since I started the Southampton branch, there has been around 15 people regularly donating, which includes a fitness instructor collecting in their classes, and a Unison staff member collecting in their office ; over the last week, donations have been astounding! The group has quadrupled in size and many of the people in there, thankfully, seem very keen to support the project, so, hopefully, we'll be able to put more boxes out and keep them all topped up. There's some wonderful people about!"

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Recent donations

Have you got any plans for Southampton's Red Box Project in the future?

"I would love for every school, college and group in Southampton Itchen that needs a box to have one. A lovely lady has just set up Southampton Test this week and I am sure she wants to get into as many places as possible, too. "

The Red Box Project is an amazing cause, helping to support those living in poverty. You can visit Southampton's Red Box Project's facebook here. To donate to the Red Box Project visit their fundraising page.