Adrian Aguinaldo remembers stories of his mother growing up in the slums of the Philippines using newspapers and reusable rags as feminine hygiene products.
When public facilities closed a year ago because of the pandemic, Aguinaldo and his college roommate Amanda Higashiguchi made a decision to help homeless women.
"It's been a need for awhile, especially here on Oahu. We have one of the highest homeless rates per capita in the U.S.," Higashiguchi said. "They would actually have to beg restaurants for napkins and go to public restrooms. It made them feel like dirt."
Aguinaldo and Higashiguchi — both 19 years old — asked close family and friends to donate tampons, pads and sanitary wipes. As word spread, a few donations turned into $12,000 worth of hygiene products.
"Definitely seeing all the feedback from the community as well as just random people and strangers and citizens that live on this island ... it really just warms my heart and makes me motivated to do day-to-day things," Aguinaldo said.
They call their cause Wahine Kokua — meaning Helping Women — and they now service 15 homeless shelters across Oahu.
So far they've donated about 4,000 care packages and plans are in place to make neighbor island visits.
"The other islands also need help. We want to help the whole state, not just Oahu," Higashiguchi said.
Aguinaldo and Higashiguchi hope what they do inspires others to follow.
For more information, go to wahinekokua.com.
Produced in partnership with the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.