Chester County teen raises funds for women in El Salvador

Alexandra Bigelow's trip to El Salvador last summer centered around building a nurse's clinic in a tiny town outside San Salvador -- standard fare for a high-school mission trip.

But Bigelow, a senior at Villa Maria Academy in Malvern, came away from the trip with a different goal in mind.

On her last day in-country, she asked community members in La Delicias -- the small town where she and her classmates had been volunteering for the past 14 days-- how she could help from home. Their answer wasn't one she was expecting: Women in the community, they said, were in dire need of sanitary napkins.

Bigelow said local women told her it's hard to find feminine hygeine products in rural El Salvador, and that poorer women and girls are often forced to stay home from work and school while they're menstruating.

"It was very eye-opening to me," she said. "I've never been in a situation like that before."

So, upon her return to the United States, Bigelow got to work.

She found a company -- Huru International -- that produces kits for women in developing countries for $25 apiece. Huru agreed to sell her the kits -- which contain eight reusable sanitary napkins, three pairs of underwear, a laundry bar and information on preventing AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases -- for just $15. Initially Bigelow hoped to raise $1,000 for her project; she's now collected over $2,000.

Bigelow said she plans to stop fundraising around May so she can ship the kits down with this summer's contingent of students from Villa Maria. In the meantime, interested parties can send donations to Alexandra Bigelow, c/o Xcell Strategic Consulting, P.O. Box 1458, Paoli, Pa. 19301.