Contending with fidgety, distracted children is standard practice for teachers. But it was the reason why one particular child couldn’t focus that changed everything for deputy head-teacher Rebekah Wilson.
“A boy in my class didn’t seem his normal happy self and he couldn’t concentrate for scratching his stomach,” says 33-year-old Rebekah, known as Bex. “He told me he didn’t have a bed at home, and the cushion he shared with his brother to sleep on was infested with bed bugs.”
This was the moment that Bex, who works at an inner city primary school in Leeds, realised the impact that hygiene could have on her pupils and their education.
“Times are hard for some families who are having to choose what they can do without,” she says. “Hygiene items often get sacrificed. We’re not talking luxuries here, just the absolute basics like toilet roll, shampoo, deodorant, shower gel and soap.
“Going without these things affects kids’ self-esteem. Imagine what it’s like if you can’t keep yourself clean or you don’t have clean clothes? It can really stop children learning, engaging and taking part at school and it can lead to bullying or them being singled out.”
Happily there’s an organisation that’s helping to relieve the pressure. The Hygiene Bank, which stresses that being clean is a basic human right, collects new, unused, in-date personal care and household cleaning essentials and distributes them to families in need through schools like Bex’s and charities.
And Boots has been supporting The Hygiene Bank by hosting more than 400 banks in stores across the UK where customers can donate their own hygiene products. The retailer then donates four products for every kilogram that has been donated.
Toothbrushes and toothpaste are two items Bex knows are particularly needed. “So many children are coming to school with tooth problems now,” she says.
“Bad dental health can cause a lot of pain and distress and really affect children’s confidence.”
But something as simple as shampoo or shower gel can also improve the wellbeing and happiness of those struggling to stay afloat. “I had a mum in tears the other day because we’d given her a hygiene package that included some shower gel. As little as a 75p bottle can make a difference. She said it felt like Christmas.”
Another mum had just £10 left for her weekly shopping. “She needed nappies, washing powder and washing up liquid. She didn’t know what to buy because she knew she couldn’t get it all.”
Hygiene products provided through The Hygiene Bank across the UK help fill the gap. “We all deserve a certain minimum,” says Bex. “We need to ensure every family has access to these basics, and remove the stigma of asking for support, making sure that families are treated with respect.”
Boots leads big donation drive
Boots and charity The Hygiene Bank are working together to provide much-needed hygiene and personal care products to people living in poverty.
In the last year, Boots, which has more than 400 donation points in stores across the UK, has given more than 620,000 items – from toothpaste to shower gel, soap to shampoo – to hundreds of communities and charities across the UK.
Boots donates hygiene products to The Hygiene Bank. And since it believes every child has the right to feel good when they go back to school, Boots has also worked with the charity to design educational resources for parents and teachers to help young people understand hygiene and hygiene poverty. In its ‘You donate = we donate’ initiative, Boots gives four products for every kilogram of items donated to The Hygiene Bank in Boots stores.
You can donate at your local Boots donation point, through the boots.com e-voucher scheme, and directly to The Hygiene Bank. Products are distributed to those who need them via schools, charities, council services and voluntary organisations.
Milford on Sea Boots Store Manager Charlotte Whiteside says: “We’re very grateful for anything that our kind-hearted customers donate – but essentials include shampoo, toothpaste and sanitary products.”
- Toilet roll
- Period products