Local Period Poverty Project nonprofit nets surprise $30,000 donation

Yasi Henderson and Andrea Rix react to the news of their $30,000 donation while on vacation in Paris.
(Courtesy of Andrea Rix)

The Period Poverty Project, a nonprofit founded by two 2022 Bishop’s School grads, was recently the beneficiary of an unexpected $30,000 donation from a TV show.

The young founders had “no words” and were completely stunned when they were gifted the grant from the TV show “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars” thanks to a winning performance by contestant Shea Couleé, who had selected Period Poverty Project as her charity to compete for.

“It is very exciting and I’m still almost in disbelief,” said 17-year-old Carmel Valley resident Andrea Rix.

Andrea, who graduated this spring from The Bishop’s School, co-founded the nonprofit with her best friend Yasi Henderson when they were sophomores in 2019. Their nonprofit serves those who do not have proper access to menstrual hygiene products and seeks to debunk the stigma around menstruation by making periods the normal, comfortable topic of discussion that they should be.

The young women also started a podcast called “That’s On Period!” to talk about all things period-related. Their motto: “It’s not awkward unless you make it awkward.”

Last week Andrea departed Carmel Valley for Yale University where she will study biology. Next month Yasi will head off to UC Santa Barbara where she will study biopsychology—it will be the first time the best friends have been apart for four years.

In July, the besties were on their dream summer vacation in Paris, sitting at a cafe, when they received a phone call from a friend about the surprise donation. They had never even seen an episode of “Drag Race” and they had no idea how Couleé learned about them. On the show’s episode, each of the contestants picked a charity to support for the Drag Race Gives Back Variety Extravaganza—Couleé won the challenge by lip-synching to Kylie Minogue’s “Supernova.”

“We thought it couldn’t be us, it couldn’t be real,” Yasi said. But the website linked on the show was indeed their own.

“We were super excited,” said Andrea, who still couldn’t quite believe it was real.

The $30,000 grant courtesy of the Palette Fund was made in collaboration with World for Wonder Entertainment and “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars”. It became real when the grant letter arrived in the mail, with a message from Palette Fund founder Terrence Meck and from Couleé.

“We all need to destigmatize periods and the activations you have created are a powerful step in the right direction,” Couleé wrote. “I hope shining a light on your cause manifests nothing but the utmost abundance for your cause.”

Due to that shining light from the show, which was streamed by almost one million viewers, they also received an additional $2,500 in donations from people visiting their website after the show aired.

Period Poverty Project is helping to fill a need that is not often talked about.

One recent study showed that one in five teenagers in the United States have missed school because they didn’t have access to menstrual products during their period. Homeless and low-income people who menstruate often have to choose between a meal and period protectiongovernment assistance programs like food stamps for low-income US citizens do not cover period products.

Andrea Rix and Yasi Henderson with some of the 80,000 period products they donated in November,
(Courtesy of Andrea Rix)

Since 2019, the Period Poverty Project (PPP) has donated to Rachel’s Women’s Center in downtown San Diego and partnered with Covers for Lives and other student groups on a city-wide menstrual product drive for the San Diego Unified School District where 40% of the students fall below the poverty line, and the district was struggling to provide students with the menstrual products they need.

In 2021, PPP donated products to the over 1,500 migrants from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador who were being housed at the San Diego Convention Center awaiting decisions on their immigration status.

Last November, PPP hosted its biggest donation event yet. By selling special pink PPP uniform polo shirts for Bishop’s, they raised $5,600 and bought 80,000 products in bulk. Four tons of products came on 16 vans to Bishop’s—the boxes stacked up and nearly covered the gym, Yasi said.

The whole senior class participated in a packing event. “That was a great thing,” Andrea said of the event which went a long way toward breaking the sigma when 150 seniors are packing period products in the middle of the day on campus.

Yasi and Andrea connected with San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria’s office and the outreach director at San Diego Housing Commission and donated all of the packages to nine city-funded homeless outreach programs, enough products to last six months.

All of the outreach programs came to Bishop’s to pick up the products and the young women said it was an amazing opportunity to learn about all of the different organizations in the city that are working to make a difference.

Yasi and Andrea are still brainstorming on how they will use this new influx of funding, whether it is purchasing products, partnering with other organizations or launching an education program for girls. Most students learn about menstruation in the fifth grade and Andrea said the way it is taught can be awkward and it’s sometimes treated as a taboo subject.

“The idea is to have young people and Period Poverty members go to elementary schools and give a talk in a way that’s more normalized,” Andrea said. Coming from a teenager, the topic might perhaps be more relatable to young girls.

Andrea and Yasi had the opportunity to give such a talk to fifth graders from the Child’s Primary School in Claremont Mesa and they said it was a wonderful experience.

Period Poverty Project chapters have now expanded into Canyon Crest Academy, Torrey Pines High School, La Jolla Country Day, San Marcos High School, Fallbrook High School and Chula Vista High School. They are working on starting a chapter at Our Lady of Peace this year.

Yasi and Andrea said proof that a stigma still exists is evidenced by how some schools they have reached out to will not accept the club as they find the word “period” to be inappropriate, “That’s literally the problem,” Andrea said.

The young advocates plan to keep the conversation going, spreading their message that period protection is not a privilege.

“We truly believe that this donation brings hope to the menstrual movement and will have an immeasurable impact on menstruators in need,” Yasi and Andrea wrote on their Instagram in a message of gratitude. “We’re planning big things for the future of menstrual justice. We can’t wait to make it happen with all of you.”

To learn more, visit theperiodpovertyproject.org