The impact of a simple hygiene kit
Kim Keller, who has managed the Company’s Disaster Relief, Resilience & Product Donations program since 2012, reflects on the role of the hygiene kit program in helping individuals and communities recover and rebuild in the aftermath of a disaster.
A simple white drawstring bag of essential supplies—toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, bar soap, washcloth and hand towel, BAND-AID® Brand adhesive bandages and a comb—make up the Johnson & Johnson Hygiene Kit. It’s our first line of support to those impacted by disasters around the world.
Great, right? But how does that help someone who has lost everything in a fire, flood or pandemic? There is so much they need—cleaning supplies, plywood and plastic, money, food, furniture and pharmaceutical products… kids need their toys, their schools to reopen and they all need a place to stay. So we give out BAND-AID® Brand adhesive bandages?
The Johnson & Johnson Hygiene Kit Program in partnership with Heart to Heart International (HHI) began in 2011. In 2020 alone, the Johnson & Johnson Foundation and the Johnson & Johnson family of companies provided funding and products for hygiene kits that were distributed to more than 55,000 persons impacted by COVID-19, wildfires in California and Oregon and Hurricanes Laura, Zeta, Eta and Iota.
I wonder at times if these kits really do make an impact. Employees enjoy getting together to pack the hygiene kits, and companies feel good when they donate the products. But what about the recipients? What difference does it make to an individual receiving a hygiene kit?
Recently, Brian Sink, Vice President at HHI, shared the following with me:
“I am struggling to find words to adequately express our appreciation of your support. A kit sometimes seems like such a small gesture, but when offered to someone at one of the most vulnerable times of their lives, it can represent hope.
It was a bottle of shampoo that offered the relief of knowing that hair could be washed tomorrow. It was an assortment of hygiene products that meant mom and dad had a little more money to spend on food and medicine for their family.”
Since the late 1800s Johnson & Johnson has worked in many different ways to support people and communities in times of crisis. Our disaster modules are packed and ready to ship to help support medical teams and aid organizations on the ground in the immediate aftermath of a large-scale disaster. The Johnson & Johnson hygiene kits stocked with essential over-the-counter supplies have been a small but important element of our disaster-response efforts at least since 2011 when we formalized the program through our partnership with HHI. What started with support for 25,000 kits has increased and varied over the years based on need—and Mother Nature.
Johnson & Johnson employees are an active part of the program, volunteering to pack hygiene kits—especially during times of natural disasters when the need is greater. Employees also make, collect and ship blankets individually or as a team for the companion “One Child One Blanket” program. These blankets are distributed along with the hygiene kits. They are individually packaged and shipped to disaster sites to be given to children who have been impacted. For a child who has just lost their favorite toys, their room and safe space, a soft, warm, clean, dry blanket can provide a small measure of comfort.
Again, in Brian’s words: “It was a blanket that calmed a small child in a shelter who was afraid and disoriented following a wildfire.”
From food pantries in New Jersey to disaster shelters in California and Puerto Rico, the hygiene kits and blankets were distributed far and wide in 2020. HHI also supplied more than 20,000 kits to other disaster-relief organizations, including Johnson & Johnson partners such as Americares, MAP International, MedShare and Save the Children, allowing them to go farther and reach more people around the world.
I’ve come to realize that when much is lost it is the little things—a comb, a toothbrush, a blanket—that can offer some normalcy amidst the chaos and help a child or a family take the next steps toward rebuilding their lives.