Not so ordinary: Donna Stolzenberg

Organiser for women. Spreading dignity. Wanting you to understand the humans.  

Donna Stolzenberg was the right woman to hear the right idea at the right time. She is the co-founder of the Melbourne and Sydney Period Projects – an organisation that coordinates sanitary items (and support) for women experiencing homelessness.

Tell us a little bit about the Period Project and where the idea came from:

The idea was really a collective of issues all coming together. I’d been running a very successful blanket drive for people experiencing homelessness in Melbourne, and when you’re in that realm, suddenly everyone sends you everything else to do with homelessness. I was sent information on the Homeless Period movement in the UK. I promised that when Blanket Melbourne was up and running, I’d look into what I could do to help women who were homeless through their period. Then I saw a post in a homeless support group I run, from a woman asking if someone would listen to an idea she had. That person was my now co-founder, Nat. She wanted to help women and transgender men experiencing homelessness with their period.

Period Project Co-founders Donna Stolzenberg (left) and Natalie Cruz.

Period Project co-founders Donna Stolzenberg (left) and Natalie Cruz.

Have you done anything like this before?

Not on this scale but once I ran an eight-week blanket drive and managed to collect around 3000 blankets for the homeless. We sent them all off to an amazing organisation called Anonymous X to have them delivered to the homeless.

Getting these types of organisations happening is always challenging – what has been the hardest thing you have had to work through?

People’s misconceptions about homelessness. Most people want to help and they’re aware that people who are homeless need help, but they’re not really aware of what being homeless actually entails. So we get all kinds of well-meaning, but really inappropriate offers of donations. Like dining chairs…

Packs of sanitary items ready for distribution. (Photo via Donna Stolzenberg )

Packs of sanitary items ready for distribution. (Photo via Donna Stolzenberg )

How do you connect with people to spread the word?

We use social media, mainly Facebook and Twitter. But one of our greatest tools is the other organisations we connect with and work with. Social media allows us to connect with the general public. Our partner organisations allow us to connect with people experiencing homelessness whom we otherwise might miss.

one of our greatest tools is the other organisations we connect with and work with

Do you have a favourite memory or story you can share about your work on the Period Project so far?

Hearing Nat recall a story of when she asked a lady who was homeless, if she needed any sanitary items. The lady said no, because she had just been to another organisation and they gave her a pack with a flower on it, that was in a brown bag. It was one of our Period Packs. The lady was saying how much she loved it, and it was just like a present.

What are you most proud of with the Period Project?

I’m proud of the unwavering support we’ve had. We have had some people question us about what we do but when we take the time to explain why we need to do this, they really come on board and want to help. We’ve managed to get support from average people, to huge companies. I’m proud of our status and that everyone knows we’re here to help and to provide a much-needed service. The support we have had from everyone has been huge.

(Photo via Melbourne Period Project Instagram)

Volunteers after a group effort of packing 600 Period Packs for women experiencing homelessness. (Photo via Melbourne Period Project Instagram)

What is the one big goal or dream that you are focused on for the Period Project?

Our ultimate goal is making sure every person out there who needs a period pack, has a period pack. There are 9200 women in Victoria alone who need help, and we aim to help every single one of them. We won’t stop until we do. Even if there is one person out there still in need, then we haven’t done our job. Our goal is to also provide a national service to all people experiencing homelessness. That’s going to be a gradual thing but at the rate we’re growing we’ll have it covered before long.

If there was one person you could sit down and talk with about the Period Project, who would it be and why?

The Hon Michaelia Cash, Minister for Women. I would love the chance to explain how much of a positive change we can make to the lives of women experiencing homelessness if we make sure every single one of them has access to adequate sanitary items every single time they need it.

What single biggest thing you would like people to learn, know or understand about the Period Project?

The sheer number of products we need. People tend to forget their donations literally get flushed down the toilet or thrown in the bin. We need to re-stock every single month. So, as much as we love that people donate, we’d love them to donate on a regular basis, so we know we can really support the people out there who need us. We rely totally on public donations. We need those to keep coming in.

Period Project co-founder Natalie Cruz (Photo via Donna Stolzenberg )

Period Project co-founder Natalie Cruz counting the period packs. (Photo via Donna Stolzenberg)

What do you think people need to understand about people experiencing homelessness?

I’d like for people to understand the humans behind the homelessness. The people we’re helping. They’re people, just like you and me. But somewhere they took a wrong turn, or someone took it for them and they ended up without a home. They need to be treated like people. Give without judgment or expectations of praise. Help people even when there’s no kick back for you.

I’d like for people to understand the humans behind the homelessness.

In five words, how does making the Period Project happen, make you feel?

Relieved fewer people will suffer.

 

You can donate to the Period Project with money or by donating supplies. Find out more about the Melbourne Period Project at the website, or follow on Facebook, or Twitter, or InstagramFor information about the Sydney Period project, head to the website, the Facebook page, or Twitter account

 

:: ‘Not so ordinary’ is a project that shines a light on regular people doing amazing things, making a difference, or just living a passionate and interesting life. Please share this story using the social media buttons below and the hashtag #NSOpeople — thank you! ::

 

 

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