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Jason Jemera, GNu’21

“I am a first-generation child of Filipino immigrants. I am a product of environments marked by poverty, street violence, substance use, and mental illness. I lost a best friend to a bullet the day I began my first nursing job at a top ranked hospital. He was a child of Nigerian immigrants.

We exist in Ivy League academia and health care spaces like Penn. Our resilience molds us to become champions in advocating the needs of our community and amplifying the voices of those on the ground doing the work, by any means necessary.

This year, virtual connections became my significant means. From my Philly apartment, I connected with the Social Justice League (SJL) of Los Angeles, an organization that builds genuine relationships between community organizations across the country to connect resources with grassroots organizations that directly serve underresourced neighborhoods. \

SJL was also founded in Black and Asian solidarity, focused on providing a mic to hear the needs of each individual community. A need that has long been ignored is period poverty – the lack of access to feminine hygiene products, menstrual education, toilets, and clean water due to financial constraints.

It’s frustrating to think how many times our low-income immigrant mothers may have had to choose providing us food on the table over caring for their own menstrual health, a taxed luxury in the states.

I took the opportunity to work with SJL to bring the national women’s health initiative to Philadelphia.

Over the phone, I communicated with SJL’s San Francisco partner Impact6 who donated over 4,000 feminine care products to Philly. Over webcam, I connected SJL to the Community Champions and Global Women’s Health directors at UPENN.

From there, we had the opportunity to connect with Lynette Medley, founder of No More Secrets, a Philadelphia organization that runs a one-of-a-kind menstrual hub called the SPOT to fight period poverty by engaging members of the community directly in their neighborhoods to provide feminine care kits, clean water, counseling, education, and more.

Lynette and her daughter package and deliver 275 kits a week, so I want to spotlight her incredible work and I encourage any student reading this to get involved.

Starting from a virtual level, this public health initiative of providing donations, spreading awareness, and bridging community relationships was able to reach the ground in Philly. Collectively, 160,000+ feminine care products were distributed in collaboration with SJL and grass roots organizations in 10 different major cities; in addition to a national women’s health panel led by community leaders.

This is representative of the power of people to work together to help others despite the obstacles. Becoming a Psychiatric Mental Health NP is bridging the gap between my background in clinical science with my passion for social justice and community advocacy.

You can find more on the organizations mentioned here: https://sjl4all.com/ https://www.impact6.org/ and https://www.nomoresecretsmbs.org/home

You can also hear more from me at my mental health podcast called “Your Mind; Your Narrative” on Spotify and Apple.”

To submit your own story, visit: www.nursing.upenn.edu/humans.