Imagine a volunteer effort so full of heart its sole purpose is providing free incontinence and menstrual supplies to those in need across the Lower Mainland.
Miel Bernstein and Tiffany Francis created Project AIM just before Christmas 2020.
“We feel that both these products should be free, and until they are, we will be providing them to the best of our ability,” said co-founder Bernstein.
Project AIM started in the Agassiz-Harrison area, solely fuelled by donations, and expanded to Chilliwack in the first year.
Now they will deliver to folks living as far away as Vancouver.
In their first year they gave away $15,000 to $20,000 worth of menstrual hygiene products, period underwear, and incontinence products.
“We get everything at wholesale or better so our dollars stretch really far,” Bernstein said.
Bernstein ended up founding Project AIM (Access to Incontinence, Menstrual products) after her personal network donated $800 in product and cash when she was asked initially by a United Way ambassador to help.
Everything was gone in 10 days.
Then the calls started.
“I kept getting calls,” she remembered.
That’s when she started getting an inkling of the level of need out there.
No one else is focused on these needs in the region to her knowledge. Project AIM received some small grants but is completely volunteer-driven.
According to statistics on “period poverty” in Canada, 30 per cent can’t afford menstrual products, and 50 per cent have experienced times they couldn’t afford to buy products, or had to make what they had last longer.
“Sometimes the reason is a lack of education, or just the shame some feel in talking about it,” Bernstein said.
They offer choice and a range of everything from commercial products on sale at the pharmacy, to local, organic cotton menstrual pads that are hand-sewed. They would like to be able to set people up with reusable sets of cotton pads, and period underwear that range from thongs to boxers, but it’s expensive.
They also just assumed adults would be provided products for incontinence through medical care, but, no. It can cost $1,800 to $3,500 a year for daily incontinence products, and there is also is a botox treatment for incontinence.
They are dead serious about the free access.
“I did not see myself doing this,” Bernstein admitted. “I had no idea that some people were home-bound because of these issues.”
The biggest thing she shares in her teachings is how to take shame out of the equation. Schools are now booking her to offer little workshops. Bernstein takes a jaunty, stuffed fabric uterus along with her to help with educational aspects of why people menstruate.
They deliver to community service organizations in several communities, including gender care counselling efforts. They serve the unhomed, immigrant groups, and young moms. They service individual households, groups, and anyone who contacts Project AIM gets a response.
“We don’t ask many questions.”
She’s been wondering how the 2019 provincial mandate requiring menstrual products to be available in public schools, has been working for kids. She assumed it meant sanitary products would be made available in school bathrooms.
“But instead many have to go to the school nurse to ask. That’s just not good enough. Teenagers are not going to go ask.”
A garage sale fundraiser one year ago, in the middle of the heat dome, raised $6,500 for Project AIM.
“This year’s fundraiser has a goal of $20,000, just because the need is so high,” Bernstein stated. “Nobody knows how many people are affected, because nobody ever talks about it, from teenage girls to our elders, with everyone in between. Everyone knows someone. It runs the entire spectrum of humanity.”
Project AIM’s two-day fundraiser, Garage Sale for Good, is July 16-17 at Miellie Meadows at 2614 Else Road in Agassiz, a 50-acre organic farm with horse training and boarding.
Saturday, July 16 is shopping day with up to 20 vendors on-site, and a silent auction throughout the two days and online. There will be high-value garage sale items including furniture and garden gifts. Local teen artist Hollis Wallis is doing a live painting to be raffled off. They’ll have pony and horse rides, face painting by donation, and food trucks. The band Vance Road closes out the second day with live music.
But one fundraising option to support is a stunning, one-of-a-kind emerald and diamond pendant, Moon Flower, created just for Project AIM by jewellery designer Melissa Caron. The draw will be held on the Wednesday, July 20. Entries to win the Moon Flower pendant will be made by donation at www.melissacaron.com.
“I spent many weeks contemplating what to create and why, as I love a design with deep meaning. The Moon Flower design represents a community coming together to sow seeds, plant and nurture a garden and to enjoy the beautiful fruits of their harvest,” Caron writes on her site. Seven gemstones were chosen to create the pendant.
“In numerology this number represents the quest for knowledge, completeness and perfection. The emeralds symbolize balance and harmony. The diamonds shining like bands of moonlight on the blossoming flowers symbolize strength, love and good health, which is my hope for everyone.” Caron chose to name the pendant Moon Flower, to tie it in with the diurnal and nocturnal aspects, “showing that when seeds are planted with love in the right conditions they will thrive in both moonlight and sunlight.”
To donate to Project AIM, Garage Sale for Good July 16-17, etransfer to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 604-889-2235, or donate directly to Remedy RX pharmacy in Agassiz.
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