We had the good fortune of connecting with Venessa Odera and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Venessa, where are your from? We’d love to hear about how your background has played a role in who you are today?
As someone whose family immigrated from Kenya, I think my identity is framed by both gratitude and giving. Gratitude for my parents’ resolve and sacrifice in their effort to support my sister and me in a new country, and a giving spirit fostered by my desire to help those who are less fortunate. My background allows me to remain cognizant of the fact that if not for the kindness of people who helped my parents along the way, I wouldn’t be where I am today. This value of kindness was also constantly modeled by my mom who always aims to carry out at least one act of kindness per day, setting an example for me to do the same. Because of this background, I always knew I wanted to do something to have an impact on my community both here in Texas as well as back home in Kenya, so when I found out the percentage of women in Collin County who are homeless or living in poverty, it caused me to recognize the impact of period poverty in my own backyard. Thus, the idea for Period Packed began to sprout as I aimed to find a way to provide underprivileged women and girls with the menstrual hygiene products they deserve.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
How did you get to where you are today professionally?

I would not have had the confidence to pursue this initiative if not for the support of people in my community. For example, the Volunteers in Plano program was kind enough to feature Period Packed in their volunteer newsletter which allowed me to better spread word in my community. Also, due to our inclusion in this newsletter, Congressman Van Taylor’s office sent a Certificate of Congressional Recognition in the mail to acknowledge the work we’ve done donating menstrual hygiene products to local women’s shelters. Not to mention the encouragement and motivation offered by my family as they helped me set up a website and package donations to get the Period Packed initiative off the ground.

How did you overcome the challenges?

The biggest challenge that I’ve faced was bringing Period Packed out of obscurity. At first, I really didn’t know where to start to find donors, but my mom really helped by asking people in her social circles and at work. Then, once I created social media profiles on Facebook and Instagram, it was easier to gain traction, especially on Facebook since the demographic is mostly adults and people who have kids. This was also a beneficial outlet during the COVID-19 pandemic because I could create fun posts to connect with charitable scrollers through these platforms.

What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?

One thing I want the world to understand about Period Packed is the true relevance of our mission. The issue of menstrual equity is global and not exclusive to nonwestern countries, especially with a majority of the homeless population in Collin County being female. For those living below the poverty line, the price of menstrual products such as pads and tampons causes them to be out of reach. Therefore, Period Packed is a necessary initiative to mitigate period poverty by providing underprivileged women and girls with the menstrual products they deserve while also raising awareness about the issue as a whole.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Living in Plano is great because not only is there an abundance of great places to eat and have fun within the city but we’re also situated within reach of activities in the many nearby cities as well.

I’m always planning fun little day trips with my friends and family, so the first place I would want to take my best friend would be downtown Dallas. We would channel our inner New Yorker and take the train downtown to the Museum of Illusions. I love this museum because it’s interactive, and each room has a different illusion which allows visitors to take some really fun pictures. Then after visiting the museum we could stop by the Serious Salads food truck for lunch because they have the best salad bowls and wraps.

Another place I would want my friend to visit would be the Boardwalk at Granite Park because the outdoor seating and firepits create an authentic boardwalk experience in the middle of town. There are a bunch of great restaurants but I personally love the Tex-Mex and fries at Chip’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers.

Next, I would take my friend to Angelika Film Center and Café. It’s a smaller scale theater at the Shops of Legacy that plays vintage and indie movies, and I really enjoy the more wide array of drinks offered at the café. This would be a great place to go to relax since it’s not as crowded as traditional movie theaters. Also, this area also holds many great restaurants, so after the movie, we could go to Benihanas which offers Japanese meals or Mi Cocina which offers authentic Tex-Mex.

To get in touch with nature, I would also take my friend to Oak Point Park which offers zip-lines, ropes courses, crossings, and swings allowing visitors to explore the forest canopy. Afterward, we could have lunch at Kura Revolving Sushi Bar where sushi comes to diners on a revolving conveyor belt, so you can try something new from the belt or order a specific dish.

Lastly, I would take my friend for a chill day at Legacy Food Hall to sit and talk on the open upstairs terrace and eat food from one of the many booths. It’s great because sometimes there’s a music performance in the outdoor area below, so you can have dinner and a show.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would like to dedicate my shoutout first and foremost to my family for encouraging me to turn what was originally a farfetched idea into meaningful action. Because of their willingness to help me fundraise, package my donations, and set up a website, I have been able to impact many people both here and abroad. Also, if it weren’t for the support of organizations in my community such as Volunteers in Plano as well as Congressman Van Taylor, I wouldn’t have developed the confidence to promote my initiative and hold tight to my passion for change. Through researching the rates of poverty in Collin County and seeing that women make up the majority of our homeless population, I was inspired to do my part in combatting period poverty. Not to mention, reading about the experiences of people my age like Nadya Okamoto who were able to make a difference through advocacy and donation, has only strengthened my resolve.

Website: periodpacked.org

Instagram: @periodpacked

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/period-packed-766b241aa

Facebook: @periodpacked

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