A Teen’s Mission to End Period Poverty: Cora Shields’ Inspiring Journey to Peru

Cora Shields distributing period underwear to women and girls in Peru.

Cora Shields, a freshman at Riverbend High in Fredericksburg, Virginia, spent her spring break in Peru. This was not a vacation; rather, she was addressing “period poverty,” a global issue affecting millions of women who lack access to education, supplies, and hygienic conditions during menstruation.

Cora’s journey began with research. She learned that in some countries, girls and young women drop out of school due to embarrassment, lack of sanitary supplies, or predatory men targeting them when they show signs of menstruation.

Determined to make a difference, Cora raised over $2000 in donations to purchase period panties, reusable and absorbent underwear that prevents leaks and helps conceal menstruation. She created a pamphlet about menstrual hygiene in Spanish and developed a short program to demonstrate period underwear to those who had never heard of it. Cora and her family then embarked on a medical mission trip to Peru with the nonprofit International Medical Relief.

During the trip, Cora and her family faced challenging conditions, including long and hot days, limited access to fresh water and bathrooms, and the constant threat of mosquitoes and illness. Despite these obstacles, Cora persevered and delivered her program to girls and women in remote parts of the Amazon rainforest. She found that once the crowd relaxed, they were eager to discuss menstruation, a topic often considered taboo. Cora’s efforts were so impressive that International Medical Relief plans to use her work as an example for future medical missions.

International Medical Relief is a nonprofit organization that provides healthcare to underserved and vulnerable people around the world. Founded in 2002, IMR recruits qualified medical, dental, and surgical teams, as well as non-medical volunteers, to conduct short-term medical clinics in areas where medical care is limited or difficult to obtain. The organization builds long-term relationships with in-country hosts, allowing them to revisit communities annually.

Further Reading

Read the full article about Cora by Kathy Knotts for the Fredericksburg Free Press: Riverbend freshman spends spring break combatting ‘period poverty’

The Borgen Project: Five NGOs Fighting Period Poverty

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About Angels in Medicine

Angels in Medicine is a volunteer site dedicated to the humanitarians, heroes, angels, and bodhisattvas of medicine. The site features physicians, nurses, physician assistants and other healthcare workers and volunteers who reach people without the resources or opportunities for quality care, such as teens, the poor, the incarcerated, the elderly, or those living in poor or war-torn regions. Read their stories at www.medangel.org.

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