Essex student behind Pachamama refugee project now leads team of 1,000 volunteers

Ella Lambert now leads more than 1,000 sewing volunteers from right across Europe Credit: PA

A student who began sewing reusable sanitary products for refugees during lockdown is now running a global network of 1,000 volunteers.

Ella Lambert, 21, learned to stitch using YouTube videos during the first national lockdown, and has since launched the Pachamama Project, which aims to end period poverty.

The languages student from Chelmsford in Essex, who goes to Bristol University, set up the not-for-profit group with university friend Oliwia Geisler in August last year.

Miss Lambert had wanted to work in refugee camps abroad in summer 2020, but when covid restrictions forced her to stay at home she started sewing sustainable period products for women instead.

More than 30,000 patterned pads have been made by over 1,000 volunteers in the UK, Germany, Italy, France and the US. Credit: The Pachamama Project

Miss Lambert said the project was also linked to her personal experience with serious period pains and a desire to break the stigma associated with talking about them.

"I've always really struggled with period pain, like absolutely atrocious period pain which would mean that I'd have to miss out on school and cancel plans last minute," she said.

"So although I've been really lucky, and I've never had to experience period poverty as such, I do know what it's like to have to miss out on really important things and appointments because of my period.

"This seemed like a really easy way of combatting period poverty and making sure that people didn't have to deal with that because they had the products they needed that would last."

She said the project "went from zero to 100" this year after initially making the pads with Miss Geisler and her mother.

"It's really escalated from a little university project from a kitchen table to a global network," she said.

The student recently visited a refugee camp in Lesbos, Greece, where she worked with local women who were able to distribute the products for a profit.

She told PA news agency: "I get letters every day from my volunteers... we get thousands of every week... letters saying how much the products helped them."

Miss Lambert said she hoped to get schoolchildren involved in making the pads and bring conversations about period poverty to their kitchen tables - and help end the stigma.

The project is named after the goddess of fertility Pachamama, a figure revered by the indigenous peoples of the Andes.