Hygiene Bags for Homeless Women: Pacific Northwest Region, USA
Homelessness in the women population is a critical issue in the Greater Seattle area, arising from many contributing factors such as domestic violence, unaffordable housing, wage inequity and mental and physical disabilities. Each person’s experience is unique and layered. What they have in common is the need for a helping hand to help them navigate these challenging times.
During March 2021, women leaders of SSSIO (Sri Sathya Sai International Organization) of the Pacific Northwest Region of the USA felt inspired to collaborate and serve the homeless women in their communities by distributing hygiene kits to women’s shelters across the region. The drive was a coordinated effort led by women leaders from various Sri Sathya Sai Centers across the region. Each center chose a local women's shelter which they could support with a tangible act of love. Each of the identified shelters were requested to provide a list of hygiene supplies they needed to help their patrons. The list of the much-needed hygiene supplies was provided to Sai Center members who then purchased and shipped the items to a designated volunteer’s residential address.
Volunteers then convened at a scheduled date and time to assemble the bags, carefully following COVID-19 safety guidelines. Each assembled hygiene bag contained travel-sized shampoo, conditioner and body wash, bars of soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, chap stick, body lotion, deodorant, razor and mouthwash. The items help women maintain basic cleanliness and hygiene, things that we take for granted but can be a challenge for those who are homeless. Volunteers also made cheerful cards with inspiring messages to place in the kits. Altogether, six Sai Centers were involved in the project and assembled a total of 340 hygiene kits.
A female youth leader reflected, “Caring for others, thinking of their needs and sending them love especially during pandemic, is part of our spiritual journey through service. We tend to take a clean home, a bath and a clean body for granted on a daily basis. These women are living in conditions that do not allow them to enjoy these luxuries. We can meditate in our temperature-controlled rooms and complain about all the baggage we carry in our journey through life. But service which compels us to go out of our comfort zone and acknowledge another's struggle helps us understand how much extra baggage we are needlessly carrying. By considering the needs of others and taking action to meet them, instead of our own, we perceive our needs in a new light. It helps refocus our mind on God instead of our problems.”