Being A Bloody Good Volunteer
By Jo Fox
My name’s Jo and I’m one of the storage volunteers with Bloody Good Period. Having been volunteering with BGP since our incredible former operations manager Anna set up the volunteering programme in 2017, I recently received an email addressing me as one of the ‘senior volunteers.’ This sufficiently inflated my ego to persuade me to have a go at writing this blog providing a volunteer’s perspective on BGP.
So firstly an apology: an apology to the many wonderful people wanting to volunteer with BGP who we currently can’t accommodate. Please do not mistake this for any form of high handedness on our parts. Until period poverty is a thing of the past, we will be seeking to include as many people as possible in our mission to give menstrual products to those who can’t afford them.
However, we also want to ensure that everyone who volunteers with us gets the right induction and support to have a bloody good time, and with all of the things going on over the past 8 months or so, including the move to our snazzy permanent workspace in Muswell Hill, we weren’t confident we could consistently do that, so we hit the pause button.
But that pause button is being lifted imminently and I hope that for those of you waiting, as well as anyone just wanting to know more about our work, this will be a useful read.
So what is the job of a storage volunteer? Well, much as it’s a tad disappointing to find out that beautiful Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and the enigmatic cuneiform writing system of 3000BC Mesopotamia were actually established to aid with financial accounting, so too is the bread and butter of BGP volunteering. The majority of our supplies are donations from individuals and therefore the majority of our work as volunteers is unpacking, logging, sorting and distributing products to the asylum seeker and refugee drop-ins we support.
During our big weekend shifts we will unpack, sort, record and prepare hundreds if not thousands of products. We need to know how much we’ve got coming in and what is going where. Our most popular products are maxi day and maxi night pads and, as outlined in our FAQs, there’s virtually no demand for cups and tampons among the people we work with.
Despite being a fully-fledged menstruator for nearly 20 years, I don’t think I’d appreciated the number of variations on the pad, including the amount of inane up-marketing, until faced with a massive sack of donations from a school collection during my first shift and never logging the same product twice.
In many ways it’s the best job in the world, combining my love of fighting for menstrual rights with a general enjoyment of tidying up. Fellow BGP volunteers tend to be fairly awesome people from lots of different backgrounds, with an incredible range of skills so shifts are also fantastic opportunities to converse and learn about all sorts of topics from preferred menstrual products (big fans to the cup), to politics, religion, and London musical recommendations.
I’ve grown so much in awareness and confidence since I started volunteering with BGP. I recently had a conversation with someone who said they love the work BGP does but hate the name, finding it too bold and visceral. However in what I hope was still a respectful manner, I found myself excitedly pointing out that that’s exactly the point – we as BGP need to be memorable to our wonderful donor network and we as a society need to break down stigmas surrounding menstruation. I don’t know if I changed the mind of the person I was speaking to, but the strength of conviction and purpose that I get from BGP were beautifully illustrated to me in that moment and cut to the core of why I get up early on weekends and traipse across London to do shifts.
The most important part of volunteering is of course making a difference, however small. We make a point of never presuming to speak for the people we donate to, but I regardless get a selfish pleasure from hoping that whatever the circumstances that lead people to access products from us, they feel that someone ‘has their back’ in the period department.