How to support the Woman for Woman initiative in Cork for Ukrainian refugees...

The Woman for Woman project in Cork is supporting female Ukrainian refugees arriving in Ireland, writes PAM RYAN
How to support the Woman for Woman initiative in Cork for Ukrainian refugees...

A woman and a child, along with other refugees from Ukraine, wait in the ticket hall of the railwlay station in Przemysl, eastern Poland. Picture: Wojtek RADWANSKI via Getty Images)

AS the war in Ukraine rages on, many more women and children will find themselves displaced in the weeks, even months, ahead.

While many donation drives have taken place, bringing aid to those in Ukraine, and readying aid for those being welcomed into Ireland, there is something missing from many lists of suggested items to give – personal care items, particularly women’s sanitary products.

Agata Bialek, from Together-Razem Center, has established an ongoing initiative, Woman for Woman in Cork, to help fill the gap.

“There are around 20,000 Ukrainians in Ireland at the moment and more are to arrive in the following weeks. The situation is very dynamic and things are changing rapidly, but there will be thousands of Ukrainians in the Cork and Munster region. Most of them are women and children,” Agata explains.

“As a woman, I am more aware of the needs of other women and their struggles.

" I know that there is still a lot of taboo around basic hygiene needs of women around the world and the topic is sensitive. It is difficult for many of us to ask for sanitary products.”

Imagine this common scenario. You are caught by surprise while out of the house, whispering to the person in the next stall over, asking if they have a pad or tampon with which they can part. And you are almost always greeted by a friendly hand reaching through with exactly what is needed in that moment. Agata and her colleagues are asking the women of Cork to be that friendly helping hand.

“We, at Together-Razem, organised Woman for Woman to help and make the basic toiletries and sanitary products freely available to any Ukrainian woman.

“Women’s personal hygiene is still a very sensitive topic and is often neglected or avoided in the media and many people don’t feel comfortable talking about it.

“Personal care is a very intimate sphere of life. Women very often do not have the courage to talk about their personal needs either, due to cultural restraints. We want to break the taboo, enable, and empower women to be more open about their basic needs.

“The Woman for Woman project is a move in the right direction. We hope other organisations will follow suit.”

The initiative is simple. Put together a pack containing each of the items on the list and drop it off at one of three collection points in Cork. One pack will go to one Ukrainian woman entering Cork, fleeing her now war-torn home. Each pack should contain:

  • 2 packs of night/long sanitary pads with wings
  • 1 pack of regular sanitary pads with wings
  • 1 pack of regular panty liners
  • 1 toothpaste
  • 1 shower gel
  • 1 shampoo
  • 1 toothbrush
  • 1 antiperspirant
  • 1 pack cosmetic/cotton pads
  • 1 face and hand cream
  • 1 pack of disposable razors
  • 1 hair comb/brush

“Many of them lost everything in the war and didn’t even have a chance to pack their bags. They left the war zone with one handbag or a small suitcase,” explains Agata.

“The newcomers arrive in Ireland with barely any possessions. We must meet the very basic, urgent needs first. These people need shelter/accommodation, food, clothing, toiletries, etc.

“The Ukrainians who had to leave their country face uncertainty, lack of security, a sense of being displaced and lost. Nothing is certain and this lack of stability causes chaos and confusion.”

Razem Together have established a hub for Ukrainians new to Ireland in their Blackpool office and a dedicated location for the Ukrainian community is soon to follow.

“We try to reach out to as many refugees as possible and provide a range of support services to them. Every person who comes to us is registered, receives necessary help and essential hygienic/ toiletry sets. Together-Razem staff speak Polish, Ukrainian and Russian, so it’s easy for us to communicate with the newly arrived Ukrainians.”

To get involved in the Woman for Woman in Cork initiative, please drop all your kitted out packages to any of the following:

  • Together-Together Center, Unit 2A, Kilnap Business Park, Old Mallow Road, Cork, T23 V9K3 (every Tuesday from 10am to 3pm.
  • Julia Grocery Polish Shop, Unit 4 Corabbey Mews, Distillery Walk, Midleton, Co. Cork, P25 X449
  • Grocery Market Polish Shop Youghal, 95 N Main Street, Youghal-Lands, Youghal, Co. Cork.

To get in touch with the coordinator, Agata, please telephone 085 855 2644.

She adds: “I live by Gogol’s quote: ‘People are never so poor that they cannot afford to share their goods with others’. It’s important that we give whatever we can.”

Together-Razem Center has been in operation since 2006 and a registered charity since 2012, providing social advice, advocacy, adult English language classes, Polish language extracurricular school activities, counselling, activation programmes for seniors, and so much more, to migrants entering Cork, mainly from Eastern Europe.

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