Some mornings, Ann VanSlyke opens her front door in Avondale Estates to find packages waiting. No, UPS didn’t leave them, but neighbors and friends did.
In the boxes and bags on her doorstep, VanSlyke finds supplies of sanitary pads meant for women in developing countries like Nepal and India.
VanSlyke’s non-profit organization, 50 Cents. Period., helps provide sanitary pads to the young women who need them so that they can continue their education.
According to VanSlyke, women who are menstruating are still banished from society during “that time of the month” in some countries.
“The women there still use menstrual huts," she said. "In Nepal almost every woman is put into those huts, where some die from snake bites and other animal attacks.”
Just hearing that makes some women mad. It made the members of a Decatur book club realize they could do something to help.
It all started when Lorrie King was in Andhra Pradesh, on the southeast coast of India, doing field surveys to help set up cyber classrooms for the non-profit The LaVya Initiative.
A female teachers told her about a real problem some female students faced. They missed a week of school a month because they lacked sanitary pads. The students were banished to menstruation huts.
King asked how much it cost for girls to have the supplies needed to continue to go to class. The answer: 20 rupees, or about 50 cents a month per girl.
King came home and, after a book club meeting, told her friends about what she’d seen. That's how 50 Cents. Period. was born.
“It’s changed my life,” King said. “I can’t think of anything else I’d rather be doing.”
Her passion is evident as she spouts statistics having to do with sanitation and the women who can’t continue their education because they are menstruating -- something just about every woman does during her lifetime.
“It’s amazing how far we’ve come and grown from me coming back wondering how I was going to help these girls, to now – we’re doing it!”
Some local businesses are already lending a hand, including and , both in Avondale Estates.
In Decatur, , where VanSlyke is a partner, is selling red bracelets, candles and other items to support the cause.
is holding a cell phone photography contest, giving those who participate a chance to be “seen” in the photography show, “Off the Cuff, On the Fly”, opening Oct. 22. As part of this competition, the gallery is also having a separate contest for cell phone photos entered that incorporate the color red.
There is no charge to enter and the gallery will have the top photos printed and raffle them off in a special fund raiser. The top three winners in this category will still have the opportunity to present their work during the opening of "Off the Cuff, On the Fly." Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to send entries.
Other businesses in the area are involved, too.
Stephanie Jolluck, founder of Coleccion Luna, is selling “period purses” through Mingei World Arts and donating money towards the cause. Jolluck is known for her work, travelling to Guatemala throughout the year to work with the Mayan Indians on a line of fair trade, eco-friendly textiles. When she learned about the work these women were doing, she couldn’t wait to get involved.
“I love that with one product I am impacting not only women in Guatemala who are creating the 'period purses,' but I am also empowering girls in India through donations from sales,” Jolluck said.
An event is planned for Oct. 22 that King hopes will bring more attention to the issue. It's called Turn DecatuRED.
The non-profit is hoping local businesses will give a percentage of sales that day to 50 Cents. Period. The group hopes restaurants and bars will offer specials on red cocktails, appetizers or desserts to add to donations.
The group also hopes folks will dress in red to show support and erect a tent staffed by volunteers on the square with brochures and photos of schools. Members may make the rounds in the city to tell public about the organization and help shoppers find supporting businesses.
Also in the works are art shows, book events, a raffle and a red window contest.
The goal for the day will be to raise $6,000 – enough to sponsor 10 schools for a year with sanitary pads.
With a name like 50 Cents. Period., VanSlyke and King also both tell tales about the people who “like” the Facebook page for the non-profit without paying attention.
“We picked up our share of young kids thinking they were liking posts from the rapper, 50 Cent,” VanSlyke said. “We think it’s funny and kind of figured that 50 Cent might not be posting about 19th-century sanitary belts.”