Shampoo, deodorant and sanitary products may seem like basic necessities but, as a group of Catholic students has realised, they remain unattainable luxuries for many disadvantaged women.
However, the Dandelion Support Network and the Beauty Bank, charities based in Sydney’s south, are working to change all that.
The two charities last week hosted a group of Year 11 girls from Bethany College, Hurstville.
Students and staff donated nappies, wipes and clothes for the Dandelion Support Network, which collects items for families in need, and toiletries and cosmetics for the Beauty Bank, which supports families escaping domestic violence or facing other difficult situations.
Denise Dolan of the Beauty Bank said the excursion was “quite an eye-opener” for students.
“Apart from the fact that they loved that we had been given a Kim Kardashian bag to fill with product, it was the amount of product itself that goes in the bags, the fact that we pack everything as if we are giving it as a gift to a friend and the sheer amount of bags that we send out every month.
“It certainly gave them food for thought when I explained that on average we make up and send out 100 bags to those leaving a domestic violence situation, find themselves homeless or otherwise in need.”
And while every pack must contain basics including soap and a toothbrush, they can also contain extras such as mascara or perfume.
“We call our gifts ‘life’s little luxuries’ as they are not just the basic hygiene items.”
Year 11 student Adele Moore said the excursion allowed students to observe first-hand the hard work and dedication of the volunteers who run both support networks.
“In assisting the volunteers with their work, our class was able to appreciate just how lucky we are and witness how valuable this organisation is to the community,” she said.
“It was extremely rewarding to contribute to the local community in this way, knowing that we were helping others that are in need.
“Overall, the day was an amazing and rewarding experience and it would be a really worthwhile experience for other secondary students.”
Bethany College teacher Bethany Oliver said the girls suddenly became aware of their own good fortune.
“When we went up to the Beauty Bank, they realised, ‘We can just go to the shops and buy these items; we don’t give a second thought about shampoo or conditioner.’
“They were blown away by the donations and how some women don’t have access to these things.”
In the course of their day of volunteering, students cleaned baby equipment, sorted clothes and assembled packs of donations for families in need.
“They felt like they had value, and that they had a made a difference working there for the day,” Bethany said.
Students hoped to add the Dandelion Support Network and the Beauty Bank to the list of charities which receive ongoing support and donations from Bethany College.