Caroline Hughes, a parishioner of St Cedma’s in the Parish of Larne, Inver, Glynn and Raloo, Diocese of Connor, has come up with an inspirational scheme to support girls in the school in which she teaches.
The Pink Paper Bag project supplies free sanitary products in toilet cubicles for the use of female pupils at Belfast Royal Academy (BRA).
Caroline, mum to Emily, 8, and six-year-old Alfie, has been teaching Biology with Chemistry and Physics at BRA for 14 years. A granddaughter of the late Dean Alexander Fair, Dean of Connor and a former incumbent in Larne, Inver, Glynn and Raloo, Caroline is a lifelong parishioner of St Cedma’s.
In an interview about The Pink Paper Bag project on BBC Radio Ulster, Caroline said that as schools returned after lockdown and the summer break, she had heard a piece on the radio about Homeless Period, a volunteer-led campaign which provides homeless and vulnerable women across Belfast with sanitary and other hygiene items.
“It hit a chord with me,” she said. “We have such a diverse demographic of pupils in school from lots of different backgrounds. Some of them will be affected by Covid much worse than I have been affected by the pandemic. I still have my job, but their parents may not have their jobs.
“I thought we needed to do something to give the girls one less thing to worry about throughout their day, that expensive product that they might not be able to have at home would be available to them in school.”
Caroline’s idea was to put a pink paper gift bag containing sanitary products in each toilet cubicle – and so the project acquired its name. The items are supplied from within the school community, donated by teachers and parents.
“We should seek to be an example to our daughters and our young girls and should support each other,” Caroline said.
The bags are restocked, by a group of helpful students, at least twice a week. “There are definitely a lot of girls using them,” she said. “They don’t have to ask for them and they don’t have to admit to problems with availability at home.”
You can listen in to Caroline’s full Radio Ulster interview on the BBC Sounds website here.