Ella Lambert launched The Pachamama Project to eradicate period poverty among refugee communities in Greece and Lebanon.
Ella Lambert, aged 20, is a college student at the University of Bristol from Essex, United Kingdom. In March last year, she suffered terrible period pains which motivated her to reach out to others who menstruate and help them in whichever way she could. She soon learned of period poverty, that is, the lack of availability and access to sanitary products due to financial constraints. Period poverty is especially prevalent among refugee communities. Therefore, Lambert decided to launch The Pachamama Project and, with the help of 150 volunteers, distributed almost 2,500 pads to refugee camps located in Greece and Lebanon, BBC News reports.
"In March I had terrible period pain, I was being sick, it was awful, and it made me think, I know I'm not the only person going through this," she told the news outlet. "The people I want to help, in these camps, they're experiencing period pain and having to use random tissue paper, cardboard, socks, scraps of material, and even leaves—whatever they can get hold of." Using these materials have been known to result in infections and other harmful side effects. Notably, menstruators who do not have access to period products are sometimes forced to stay home rather going to work or school, leaving them far behind their non-menstruating peers.
Lambert's journey began when she posted appeals for material to sew reusable pads on community groups. Once she created a pattern, developed a how-to guide, and explained how to source material for free, volunteers from across the United Kingdom came forward to support her initiative. With the help of charities and groups in Greece and Lebanon, the college student launched The Pachamama Project in August. The initiative is named after Pachamama, the goddess of fertility. She is revered by the indigenous people of the Andes. Following quality checks, Pacha Pads are sent to those in need abroad. So far, Lambert has managed to distribute 2,500 pads sewn by 150 volunteers, benefitting a total of 300 refugee menstruators.
Katy Chadwick, a technical advisor at the charity ActionAid UK, shared, "For too many women and girls and people who menstruate a lack of access to products impacts on their ability to move freely and to access education and other opportunities. It's encouraging to see new initiatives to support the most marginalized women and girls access sustainable products." Alice Corrigan, the founder of The Free Shop Lebanon, added that it was important to educate refugee menstruators on reusable pads. She said, "Sustainable menstrual products are very new to many Lebanese and in particular Syrian women."
More recently, The Pachamama Project held a 50K marathon to raise funds to cover the administrative costs of running the organization, distribution costs, and the costs of any materials that could not be sourced for free. Lambert's brother Luke, aged 16, along with friends and several people dotted around the country, ran 10K a day over a five-day period in late October last year. This distance was chosen as 50K is the distance between Aleppo in Syria and the Turkish border, "a journey many refugees have been forced to make, to get to safety," the initiative's website reads. To get involved with The Pachamama Project, you can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.