“I’d like people to be able to have essential toiletries and personal hygiene products without having to ask, and without needing to thank anyone” says Isabel Dosser, a Livingston resident who is rather surprised to find herself at the helm of a new charity which is set to grow massively in 2019.
Isabel is a lecturer in nursing at Edinburgh Napier University, where she has worked for 15 years after a 30 year career in nursing, specialising in palliative care. She is very well-versed in issues of care, dignity and choice.
“During a nursing conference in April this year, I attended a workshop on poverty. Someone in the group mentioned a box they have at their organisation where women can help themselves to free sanitary products. And the thought just lingered with me.”
Isabel is retiring next year and wanted a small project to set up to give something back to the community. “The idea of the box of free products kept coming back to me. I knew that sanitary products are now freely available in many places, so I decided on boxes of other basic hygiene products, to be made available on a self-serve basis in areas of the Lothians where people are experiencing hardship and deprivation.”
Speaking with the Foodbank, the clothing bank and other organisations, it was clear that no-one else was focussing on toiletries, and people were generally receptive to the idea. So Isabel drew up a proposal for the project and presented to it to her employer, Edinburgh Napier University, who were very supportive.
Isabel managed to get local supermarkets to donate the boxes themselves; Edinburgh Napier University promoted Dignity Boxes internally, agreed to collections points at each of their three campuses, and arranged an official launch and publicity.
With donations of products in from the university collection points, Isabel was soon ready to put the first box out in the community. Social Bite in Edinburgh were keen to take it; and on launch day in mid September Isabel found herself and her project in the local press and on Forth Radio.
Since then, the uptake and requests have been almost overwhelming. “There is clearly a need for this that wasn’t being filled. It would be easy to get distracted onto lots of other products, but we are keeping the focus on just these six toiletry items.”
Each box contains around 20 products, including shampoo/conditioner, shower gel, soap, shaving foam, deodorant, toothpaste/toothbrushes. The boxes are placed with organisations where people can discreetly help themselves, and are refilled monthly.
With an instinct for business that is going to stand this charity in good stead, Isabel has assembled a board of directors for Dignity Boxes, and is in the process of applying for registered charity status which will allow them to take monetary donations too. Monetary donations will enable them to establish a website, reimburse fuel expenses for volunteers who refill the boxes and collect donations and so on.
And at some point she will need to look at premises, as her home is quickly becoming overrun with donated products! Isabel’s family have thrown themselves into it too, with her husband in charge of the stock control spreadsheet at home, and each of their three adult children contributing ideas, suggestions and support.
Isabel has a waiting list of organisations who have requested a box. She wants to ensure she can sustain the ones she has out first of all, with regular refills. If you can help at all, please see the information below and get in touch with Isabel, so that she can ensure the organisations on the waiting list receive their box quickly!
Donations of shampoo/conditioner, shower gel, soap, shaving foam, deodorant, toothpaste and toothbrushes are needed. You don’t need to spend more than a pound or two; just pop an extra shower gel or toothpaste in your regular grocery shopping and it will make all the difference.
Drop-off points :
The Beauty Box, Bathgate
Personal Design Studio, Mid Calder
Dedridge Dental Practice, Livingston
Napier Merchiston Campus
Napier Craiglockhart Campus
Napier Sighthill Campus
Or please contact Isabel and she will collect your donation.
If your organisation can be a drop off point for donations, please get in touch as more donation points are needed – anywhere in the Lothians.
Volunteers are needed to collect products from donation points and to develop relationships with organisations who have boxes, and to top up the boxes monthly.
Also if you can contribute skills such as website design, social media, fundraising, please contact Isabel.
Please see https://www.facebook.com/DignityBoxes/
Dignity Boxes is awaiting its SCIO registration number.
Published in Konect December 2018
Author: Helen-Jane Shearer