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Mission of Mercy

May 01, 2024

Students involved in University of Idaho’s apparel, textiles and design program have been working in an assembly line to mass produce a product they’ve designed to make life easier for rural Guatemalan women.

Many women in Guatemala have no access to menstrual pads — a fact that can sometimes prevent them from leaving home. Students taking ATD 224 and members of the campus ATD Club have set a goal of making 400 high-quality, reusable menstrual pads to be hand delivered during a forthcoming philanthropic trip.

Two sophomores in ATD 224, Joanna Osornio of Caldwell and Kenzie Eppey of Coeur d’Alene, were chosen to spend 10 days in Guatemala beginning in the second week of May. They’ll be accompanied by a pair of faculty members within the Margaret Ritchie School of Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) — instructor Chelsey Byrd Lewallen and Professor Sonya Meyer.

“I think it’s going to expand how they see themselves as designers and product developers to say, ‘I can make something that looks good, but I can also make something that does good,’” Lewallen said. “I think it brings a lot of purpose to why they’re getting this degree and what they would like to do in the future.”

The annual trip is organized by the Indiana-based organization Hearts in Motion. Though this will be U of I’s first involvement in the trip, Washington State University (WSU) Professor Kathy Beerman’s biological sciences students have participated for several years and will test the locals for iron deficiency and type II diabetes. While the U of I team gives away pads, the WSU students will distribute iron fish, which are added to stock pots to bolster the iron content of food. A team of dentists will also make the trip to pull abscessed teeth.

The U of I contingent will teach lessons in sewing and making pads to members of a community center with a sewing room in the village of Gualan. They’ll also bring basic sewing tools and supplies to donate to the community center.

“Maybe they want to make something to sell so they can earn a little income, or maybe they want to make some repairs and alterations. Maybe they want to do some crafts. We are looking forward to hearing their needs and then supporting them to accomplish those tasks.” Lewallen said.

ATD students Tess Richardson and Chloe McDougal developed the design for the pads, coming up with several prototypes of various sizes and styles before arriving at a three-layer version they liked. Their design includes a top cooling layer that keeps wearers dry, an absorbent fabric commonly used in cloth diapers and menstrual pads and a moisture-proof layer cut from donated tent fabric.

The two ATD students who will make this year’s trip are eager for the opportunity to personally witness their class’s hard work making a difference for real people.

“It’s really nice to get to know what things happen in other countries and get involved in this kind of thing to help other people,” said Eppey, who plans to become a fashion designer.

Osornio, who is fluent in Spanish, will also aid her team as a translator. Osornio plans to become a swimwear designer.

“I know there are a lot of women who don’t have the resources we have here,” Osornio said.

Lewallen hopes to make the Guatemala trip an annual tradition — perhaps building a new class around the trip and a related philanthropic project. For this year, the U of I team will receive support from FCS and College of Agricultural and Life Sciences endowment funds. The ATD Club organized a sustainable clothing swap and screen-printing workshop as a fundraiser. WSU Women in STEM (WiSTEM) raised money to help purchase fabric for making menstrual pads and supplies for kits recipients will use to wash them.

Published in Catching Up with CALS

Students making 400 high-quality, reusable menstrual pads to be hand delivered during a forthcoming philanthropic trip to help Guatemalan women.

About the University of Idaho

The University of Idaho, home of the Vandals, is Idaho’s land-grant, national research university. From its residential campus in Moscow, U of I serves the state of Idaho through educational centers in Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls, nine research and Extension centers, plus Extension offices in 42 counties. Home to nearly 11,000 students statewide, U of I is a leader in student-centered learning and excels at interdisciplinary research, service to businesses and communities, and in advancing diversity, citizenship and global outreach. U of I competes in the Big Sky and Western Athletic conferences. Learn more at


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