Calgary teen recognized for work distributing feminine hygiene kits during pandemic

A Calgary teen is being commended for her project to connect young women in Alberta with feminine hygiene kits to help their mental health during the pandemic.

Deep Braich, 17, came up with the idea this spring when she realized her friends were facing difficulty accessing products like sanitary pads, razors, shampoo and body wash because it was hard for some to leave the house during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Braich began raiding her mom’s linen closet, gathering extra supplies from her own home and packing them discreetly into brown lunch bags. She would leave them on her doorstep for girls to collect.

She started to finance the project using her own savings, which she’d been patiently gathering for the past three years. 

“I wanted women to feel pampered because during COVID we tend to ignore our mental health and we feel really down. It’s important that with these small things we can make ourselves feel better,” said Braich.

Deep Braich packs one of hundreds of hygiene kits. She has made up 825 of them so far. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

“I’ve always had a passion for helping others, and a lot of people in my family have grown around people who always put others first before themselves,” she said.

Word quickly spread to community organizations and other groups in and around Calgary. Before long, Braich was making hundreds of hygiene kits for women of all backgrounds and cultures.

Braich, with the help of local organization Khalsa Aid, made more than 100 of her care kits for women on the Eden Valley Reserve who were under quarantine and couldn’t access stores.

“They were under lockdown and were really in need of supplies,” said Braich.

“At first, I was shocked and was like, ‘how am I going to do this?'” she said.

Braich was contacted with offers of help by several organizations, including the Northeast Women’s Group, Southwest Communities Resource Centre and One Voice Canada.

The 17-year-old holds up one of her feminine hygiene kits that come in a cloth bag. She says feeling cared for and pampered can boost women’s mental health. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

Braich graduated from Calgary’s Queen Elizabeth High School and hopes to pursue a career in social work after graduating university, which she starts this fall.

She says the high school helped and supported her in the early days of her project, along with several e-transfer donations sent to her from community members who wanted to help.

“It made me smile to make people super happy because for me mental health is really important.… This project, even though it isn’t really big, it’s still something to help, and it made me happy they were smiling and would feel good about themselves,” Braich said.

Braich just received an Alberta Northern Lights award from the provincial government for her volunteer efforts.

“I am super happy and really grateful and it wouldn’t have been possible without all the different organizations that I helped and who helped me,” Braich said.

Braich’s work is a huge source of pride for her mother, Reyme Sekhon, who has taken a back seat and tried as much as possible to leave the work to her daughter.

These are some of the items being packed into cloth bags to help young women struggling to access feminine hygiene supplies during the pandemic. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

“I feel very proud. I raised her as a single mom and this is a huge thing,” said Sekhon.

“When a child is doing something good and taking the initiative, as a parent we should help and support them and see where it goes,” she said.

Sekhon says the only help she has given is taking Deep on shopping trips and helping her choose the cloth bags that replaced the brown paper bags she was using.

“Getting the recognition from the provincial government, nobody from our family has reached to this level. It feels like a Nobel prize for our family,” said Sekhon.

“We see big actors and community workers doing big things and we think we don’t have the funds or that we’re not good enough,” said Braich.

Braich says she hopes her project inspires other young people to try similar projects to help others.

Braich is still collecting donations and building kits and can be contacted through her organization Youth Helping Youth Calgary.

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