The little menstrual products barn on the prairie

In a barn on a small certified organic farm nestled in Agassiz, there is a room brimming with horse supplies and the oaky aroma of tannins from leather. There is also a room with boxes of pads, tampons, and other menstrual hygiene products.

By Fraser Valley Current Contributor | December 21, 2022 |5:00 am

By Kayla MacInnis

In a barn on a small certified organic farm nestled between Mount Agassiz and Mount Cheam, there is a room brimming with rows of horse saddles, bridles, stirrups, and the oaky aroma of tannins from leather. There is also a room with boxes of pads, tampons, and other menstrual hygiene products.

Wearing a shirt with rainbow lettering that reads, “More chill, less wack,” Miel Bernstein explains how so many menstrual products ended up in her barn.

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‘The need was huge’

Berstein and her friend, Tiffany Francis, co-created Project AIM (Access to Incontinence & Menstrual Products) in 2020 after being approached by an ambassador for United Way.

The original hope was for her barn to be a drop-off location for United Way’s drive to collect funds and products for its Period Promise campaign. But with no follow-up from United Way, they decided to start their own charity.

Bernstein and her network came together to raise around $800 worth of typical menstrual products.

Within 10 days, all of the products were gone.

“I quickly realized the need was huge,” Bernstein says. “I couldn’t stop now because people still needed it ongoingly.”

So AIM started working to provide barrier-free access to menstrual products and remove stigma through education for people who menstruate in the Lower Mainland. Community members returned asking if they had products for people who struggle with incontinence, so they started to collect and provide those products as well.

While Berstein speaks, two farmworkers groom a horse in her barn’s hallway. Bernstein runs an equestrian centre that offers horse rehab, boarding, training, and kids riding lessons. They also grow food for the community. Her team even helps with the intake and organization of products and packing orders for AIM.

During the heat dome, Bernstein, Francis, and her squad of volunteers organized another fundraiser, raising $6,300. They used all the money to purchase menstrual and incontinence products, sending them off to local emergency shelters, community members, Totes for Teens, and Cheam First Nation’s emergency shelter.

“The most marginalized people generally have the most barriers to accessing these products,” Bernstein says. “So one of the things we’re trying to figure out is how do we get the product to the people who are unsheltered or maybe they’re struggling with addictions or whatever it might be.”

Mel Bernstein and Project AIM provide a variety of menstruation and incontinence products to those who might not otherwise be able to access them.📷 Kayla MacInnis
Mel Bernstein and Project AIM provide a variety of menstruation and incontinence products to those who might not otherwise be able to access them.
📷 Kayla MacInnis

Partnering with Amber Price—the owner of The Bookman, a new and used bookstore in Chilliwack and Abbotsford—they have added AIM products to The Bookman free library, providing another drop-off and pickup centre for those without access to the internet.

Bernstein also offers menstrual and incontinence health and hygiene talks to young mom groups and hopes to expand AIM’s reach.

“I would love to work with more schools and young people so that they can go through life without having to have those worst period stories that many of us have,” she says.

Around one-third of Canadian women under 25 struggle to afford menstrual products, according to a report conducted by Plan International Canada. Period poverty remains shrouded in stigma, but adequate education and barrier-free access to menstrual products could change that.

And an estimated one in five mature adults struggle with incontinence, spending an average of $1,400 to $2,100 on incontinence supplies per year, according to The Canadian Incontinence Foundation.

AIM’s most recent fundraiser this past July raised more than $14,000.

“I thought this money would take us to late spring next year, but with the state of the economy and rising costs—” Bernstein says, trailing off.

The upstairs office is piled with boxes full of menstrual products from partnering companies. Bernstein also buys incontinence supplies at cost through Mohamed Hasanine, a pharmacist and the owner of Agassiz Remedy’s Rx Pharmacy. Almost every inch of the floor is covered, but Bernstein says the product will all be gone soon.

Menstrual and incontinence products are a fundamental and ongoing need, and demand is higher than ever. With a few generous donations over the holidays, they believe funds will last until February. Since AIM is a small grassroots organization whose funding comes from donations and a few small community grants, they continue to search for other financial revenues.

“Kids should not be avoiding school because they can’t afford their period products,” she says. “No elders should be sitting on piles of towels and smelling like pee and unable to afford what they need.”

Those looking to donate products or get in touch can email projectaimcommunity@gmail.com or text/call Bernstein at 604-889-2235. Products can be donated or dropped off at The Bookman in Chilliwack, Remedy RX in Agassiz, or Miellie Meadows in Agassiz.

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