Nadya Okamoto calls it her “time of transition.”
In the spring of her freshman year of high school, Nadya’s mother, who had moved her and her younger sisters away from an abusive household to Portland, Oregon, lost her job.
Her mother couldn’t afford their house anymore, so the family moved in with a friend. But the friend lived far away from Nadya’s school.
To get to school, Nadya had to travel up to two hours. She always saw the same homeless women on the bus commute, so she started talking to them, and they bonded.
During her sophomore year of high school, Nadya was in a physically abusive relationship. She spent a night at a shelter. There, too, she spoke with women less privileged than she.
Nadya learned homeless women shared one major concern — one which all women share, in varying degrees — they needed tampons and pads for their periods.
Women told her they would use things like newspapers and grocery bags as impromptu pads.
In her time of transition, Nadya was struggling.
She was dealing with self-harm and anxiety. She felt powerless and depressed, especially following a sexual assault.
She was feeling pessimistic, but then the transition progressed. She said “being exposed to how privilege is really a spectrum and how I had been disregarding how privileged and blessed I was to have an education and a family” made it harder for her to feel negative about her life, despite the serious challenges she was facing.
With the privileges she did have, including a great school, Nadya felt like she had to do something to help those less privileged.
She asked Vincent Forand, who was always “super organized in class,” to help her with a project. They spent six hours in a Starbucks working on a plan.
They launched Camions of Care in the spring of her sophomore year of high school.
Camions of Care distributes pads, tampons and other feminine hygiene products to homeless women.
Along with distributing the products, Nadya fosters other young leaders to build their own chapters at universities and high schools to help their own local communities.
In the two years since the organization was founded, over 30 schools formed chapters. They have a presence in 17 states and nine countries.
Camions of Care has addressed over 25,000 periods in two years.
While the nonprofit has helped thousands of homeless women, founding it helped Nadya pull herself out of her depression.