The Hygiene Bank
Connecting for self-esteem
“I didn’t realise how much better I felt when I was clean. I definitely feel more confident and feel more like I belong.”
Taylor, aged 19, lives in supported housing after six months of sleeping rough, and is one of the people who’ve benefitted from the services of The Hygiene Bank project in Eastbourne.
The project was the brainchild of one of Ansvar UK’s brokers who asked if Ansvar could put together a team to set up an Eastbourne arm of The Hygiene Bank charity. That was in July 2019 and two months later it was up and running – run solely by volunteers from Ansvar.
The Hygiene Bank charity is a grass roots, community initiative giving hygiene, personal care and household cleaning products to people in need across the UK. As its founder, Lizzy Hall, explains: “Basic hygiene goes to the core of self-worth, self-respect, confidence and dignity. With hygiene poverty comes isolation, exclusion and shame and these impact our ability to participate in society and therefore what it means to be human.”
In the first four months of the Eastbourne project taking off, half a tonne of goods were collected and distributed to local charities including women’s refuges, charities supporting the homeless and families on the poverty line. Together with their neighbouring Hygiene Bank, they’ve also raised £1,200 through fundraising activities, which will be used to buy more supplies. As Lizzy Hall puts it: “These products aren’t life or death but they are fundamental to a sense of dignity and mental wellbeing and our ability to impact society and interact. If COVID-19 has done anything, it’s put the issue of hygiene on everyone’s radar.”
Someone who’s seen first-hand the effects of poverty hygiene on a person’s sense of self-worth is Kelly Barter, lead coordinator of the Eastbourne Hygiene Bank project. “People stop using shampoo and deodorant long before they get hungry. People will scrimp on hygiene products to get the food they need. It’s incredibly sad.” Fortunately, she’s also seen the positive effects – by helping people like Taylor. As he himself puts it: “I used to sit at the back of the class trying to be invisible. But now I chat with the others and I’ve got a girlfriend.” By providing such small, simple products, The Hygiene Bank is giving people’s self-esteem a huge boost.