People’s struggle to maintain basic cleanliness and hygiene in the face of austerity has prompted a University of Sunderland student to take action.
Having worked with the homeless on foodbanks, 20-year-old Lauren Robinson has come up with the idea of creating a ‘Beauty Bank’ offering toiletries, sanitary towels, and basic cosmetics to those who are struggling to simply stay clean.
“We all now know how important foodbanks have become in feeding people and families who are fighting to get by,” said Lauren.
“The idea of the Beauty Bank is to offer toiletries, even if it’s just the basics, which will help people stay clean.
“There’s a real need for this, yet it has somehow gone unnoticed for a long time.”
Lauren, a second year BA Journalism student, says that through her outreach work she has witnessed a growing demand for people fighting to keep up basic hygiene.
“What it’s about is creating confidence”, she said. “Not having access to basic toiletries can have such an impact if you’re going for a job interview.
“Little things, like putting on a bit of make-up can make a big difference.”
Between 1 April 2016 and March 2017, The Trussell Foodbank provided 1,182,954 three-day emergency food supplies to people in crisis. This compares to 1,109,309 between 2015-16.
But while the need for foodbanks has become well reported, the growing need for basic hygiene care has slipped under the radar.
Lauren, of Boldon, South Tyneside, aims to address this.
“It’s such an easy problem to solve as well,” she adds. “Let’s face it, we all get lots of toiletries, make-up and similar bits-and-bobs for Christmas or birthdays, and most of the time these get pushed to the back of the cabinet and forgotten about.
“All we’re asking is that people instead donate these items to us and we will make sure they reach those most in need.”
So where did Lauren’s drive to help those struggling on the poverty line come from?
“I’ve done some outreach work in the past in parts of Newcastle. It’s helped me see first-hand how there’s a real need for this type of thing.
“In many ways it’s sad that it’s come down to this and we have to provide this service but I really feel passionately about it.”
Lauren is hoping the Beauty Bank will be accessible to people right across the North East, including Sunderland and Newcastle.
The student is planning to work with a charity to begin distributing the items in city centres.
Now, Lauren, who is based at the Sir Tom Cowie Campus at St Peter’s, is appealing for anyone with unwanted cosmetics and toiletries to get in touch or drop them in.
She said: “We just want to get the word out there. So far the response has been really positive and we’ve had make-up starting to come in.
“But we also need things like shampoos and men’s toiletries.”
Alistair Robinson, programme leader for BA (Hons) Journalism, said: “It’s great to see a journalism student not only identifying problems and reporting on them, but actually doing something about them.”
Speaking of her time at the University of Sunderland, Lauren said: “I chose to study here after attending the Summer School programme.
“I love studying here, it has provided so many opportunities for me to gain experience in the world of journalism, as well as teaching me the necessary skills I need.”
Donations can be dropped into the MediaHUB at the David Puttnam Media Centre, St Peter’s Campus or by contact email@example.com