At Notre Dame High School in downtown San Jose, where all the students are girls and most of the faculty are women, the topic of feminine products is no big deal and the concept of having to do without these basic necessities is unthinkable. But for many girls and women throughout the San Jose community, this is the harsh reality. According to Sacred Heart Community Center (SHCS), who serves thousands of people each month, women and girls are often forced to stay at home rather than attend school or work due to a lack of adequate supplies. Notre Dame shares a special bond with Sacred Heart Community Center, one of its downtown partners, with students often volunteering in various capacities. SHCS offers a comprehensive array of resources and services as it brings together the community to address poverty in Silicon Valley and although they receive donations regularly, feminine products are rarely included.
After hearing about the challenges facing their ‘sisters’ in the community, the Notre Dame students took action, launching The Sister Project. Held each year during Notre Dame’s annual Spirit Week, The Sister Project collects women’s underwear and sanitary products for donation to Sacred Heart. This year’s joint effort between ASB School Council and campus ministry homeroom reps collected more than 61,000 items – enough to fill three vans to capacity – as well as an $800 donation from the Ladd-Barrett Family Foundation. In the six years since its inception, the project has raised more than $95,000 in products and cash donations.
“It can be embarrassing for women to ask at our counter for hygiene products. If we don't have what they need, it makes the experience that much worse,” said Sacred Heart’s involvement coordinator. “Thanks to Notre Dame’s Sister Project, we are able to supply low income women with a basic need in a dignified way.”
“In the 166 years we have been in downtown San Jose, we have graduated thousands of young women who have gone on to impact the community on a local, national and global level.” said Principal Mary Beth Riley. “What we see now are high school girls who are already making an impact in the community in many ways including the Sister Project. It’s a wonderful thing and we are very proud of our Notre Dame students.”
Several students helped distribute products at Sacred Heart recently, allowing them to personally connect with the women their contributions were meant for. For Notre Dame, being able to help women and girls in our local community and spread the sisterhood beyond campus is priceless.