Project Blank (AKA Project Period) Expands Its Reach

Project Blank, formerly known as Project Period, will be changing their name and expanding their horizons to reach out to an even broader audience.

Fatima Mohamed, a UMKC sophomore and the founder of Project Period, was inspired to start the initiative shortly after a close friend of hers went abroad to Greece to help Syrian refugees. Seeing the impact her friend made on the Syrian refugees encouraged Fatima to make a change in her own community.

“I just decided that I was going to make it my mission to help as many people as I could,” Mohamed said.

As vice president of the Muslim Student Association at UMKC, Fatima used her role to help her find interested peers who wanted to join her in the mission to serve the community. This was the beginning of Project Period, an organization that would continue to evolve throughout the semester.

Together the students researched ways in which they could make a change in the community around them and provide items to people in need.

One day, while bringing warm pizzas to homeless people under a bridge on Emanuel Cleaver Boulevard, Fatima came across a woman, Hannah, who left a lasting impact.

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“She’s been homeless for over 30 years, and she had been living under that bridge for the past six or seven months with her husband,” Mohamed said. “She didn’t experience periods anymore but when she did it was horrible. Imagine not having something as simple as pads.”

Mohamed shifted in her seat with stress, empathy pouring over her face, as she talked about her conversation with Hannah.

After furthering their research, the group discovered a not-so-shocking fact, feminine hygiene products are among the most under-donated items and on the top of the list for most shelters.

Project Period began the quest for donations.

Working with the UMKC Women’s Center, they set up a wheel for students to spin that had a multitude of facts about the homeless in Kansas City.

Project Period also set up a henna-drawing-booth in which they offered henna drawings in exchange for donations. The members of the group were so dedicated to helping the cause that many of them, including Mohamed, learned how to draw henna that same day.

“We were all practicing [henna] on each other so [that day] you would see a group of people with marks all over their arms,” Mohamed said. “It was really funny.”

Their efforts to gain collections proved successful. They put together more than 200 bags full of tampons, pads, dental floss, bandages and other kinds of items that are highly needed and under-donated.

This week, the organization will be changing their name and their motto which was originally known as “Project Period: Helping the Homeless”.

The shift in motto is more significant than some may think. The group will be avoiding using the world “help” all together.

“There’s this stigma where Americans go over and they feel like they have to save Africa,” Mohamed said. “That’s not our job. Our job is to make sure that everyone is taken care of.”

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Most people would not consider a word like “help” to be associated with something negative, but this group brings a set of unique knowledge to the table when it comes to educating people about how to address poverty and charity.

Mohamed also brings her own experiences to the project. When she was in high school, she, her 7 siblings, mother and father moved into her uncles’ small two-bedroom apartment.

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Although they had a roof over their head, sharing the small space with 10 other people was stressful.

“I grew up poor,” Mohamed said. “Just going through that experience was really eye opening.” Mohamed wiped a tear away as she continued to tell her story.

“I wasn’t waking up in my own bed anymore. I was waking up in someone else’s. And at any moment we could have been denied access to that.”

Using her own experience as a force that drives her, Mohamed and her team at Project Blank will continue to expand others’ knowledge about serving humanity for the greater good.

This group has exciting things planned going forward to reach out to aide even more communities. This summer they will focus on collecting donations for hygiene products for Flint, Michigan which is currently in the midst of a toxic-water-crisis. They will be putting together care packages that specifically reduce the amount of water needed for hygiene such as hand sanitizer and body wipes. Pairing together with Zaman Clothing, the group will be selling t-shirts and the clothing company will donate 100 percent of its proceeds to the cause.

Project Blank is a refreshing group that reminds everyone an important lesson: the world doesn’t need a hero. It just needs decent humans.

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