Pedalling for pads

The Periods For Hope cyclist, Nick Freund, Lara du Plessis, Lood van Niekerk and Emily Farrell preparing to embark on a 700km journey from Cape Town to Plettenburg Bay.

To combat the monthly struggle homeless women face when having their periods, a group of students hopped on their bicycles and decided to make a difference.

The four students represent Periods For Hope, which is an initiative that aims to raise funds to put together packages of sanitary pads, sanitary wipes, and an energy bar to distribute to homeless women in and around Cape Town.

“We aim to give these women a dignified solution to the monthly struggle they face when they have their periods,” said Richard Freund, a second-year Business Science student at the University of Cape Town.

The riders, Mr Freund, Lara du Plessis, Lood van Niekerk and Emily Farrell, embarked on a 700km journey from Cape Town to Plettenberg Bay, with every kilometre raising R100 towards the initiative.

“We all believe that we have a responsibility to give back to communities around us. The topic of women’s periods has often been considered a taboo topic in many households and communities. We aim to break this taboo by creating awareness of the financial, emotional and hygienic struggles that many homeless women face as they do not have access to the necessary sanitary goods that they require,” Mr Freund said from Bonnievale, 210km into the cycle.

The ultimate goal would be to raise R70 000 in total, having already raised R41 000 from the trip.

“It is going well despite the four of us doing very little training because of having to write exams. We have had a few issues, such as chains falling off, but we have handled everything so far. The cycle has raised a lot of awareness of the issue through Facebook, Instagram and email,” Mr Freund said.

The idea came about when one of the team members, Ms Du Plessis, read an article about how homeless women handle their menstruation cycle living on the streets. This acted as the inspiration to bring together the Periods For Hope team and raise the money to develop a solution to help the homeless women during their periods.

Mr Freund said a similar successful initiative launched by a family member who cycled from Plettenberg Bay to Cape Town to raise money for school supplies for underprivileged schoolchildren, sparked the idea for their project.

“We thought that we would undertake a similar project. We also thought that being four unfit non-cyclists, we would challenge and push ourselves to do something out of the ordinary and show our commitment to the cause. We also hope to raise as much awareness as possible along our route,” Mr Freund said.

After the cycle and once all the donations have come in, the Periods For Hope team will compile the packages themselves, as they are already in partnership with The Haven Night shelters, which will allow them to distribute the packages to the women through them.

Hassan Khan, chief executive officer for The Haven Night Shelter, who also made a R100 contribution towards the cycling initiative, said: “It will make such a difference in the lives of the women who are reached through this programme. I hope and pray that the idea catches on. It would be wonderful if we can assist school-going girls to access the products at school.”

Messages of support have been streaming in on the Periods For Hope Facebook page.

The Bhabhathane Butterfly Foundation posted: “Good Luck with your ride! The Bhabhathane Butterfly Foundation provides sanitary products to girls so that they don’t miss school due to having their periods. Women from all walks of life deserve dignity. You are an inspiration to us!”

Old Oaks posted: “Well done to you all!! The Old Oaks are following and supporting you all the way. May the rest of your journey be wonderfully blessed.”

Mr Freund said they hope to sustain the project long-term. “We hope to keep momentum and recognition of this cause and make Periods For Hope a long-term project as more people join the initiative.”