The Bathing Bundle Project

By Tang Cheam, Director of Information and Technology, NIWRC

Soaps that are ready for packaging in the Bathing Bundles. The soap’s packaging is plastic-free and each bundle is wrapped in tissue paper and placed in a reusable muslin bag. / Photo courtesy of NIWRC.

NIWRC Provides 7,000 Bathing Bundles to Support Native Women’s Shelter Programs During the COVID-19 Health Crisis

With COVID-19 spreading into a second year, there is a heightened awareness of the need to access personal care products. While urgent to save lives, responding to public alerts to reduce the spread—wear a mask, wash your hands, social distance—can pose real challenges. Early on, these hygiene and protective items were difficult to find on store shelves as panic buying set in and products used for hand washing and general hygiene disappeared.

Staying healthy can already be difficult when leaving an abusive situation or while in a shelter, so when these items are scarce, it makes it that much more difficult to feel safe from abuse and the virus.

“When consumers struggled to locate these products, imagine the difficulty that organizations providing shelter must have gone through. It was out of this realization that the Bathing Bundle project was born” said Lucy Simpson, NIWRC Executive Director. “We sourced production of body and face bars from a soap maker who graciously provided these items at cost to help alleviate shelter programs struggling to maintain stock of these supplies.”

A Project to Support Healing and Shelter Programs for Native Women

The ritual of bathing is a simple way to clear the mind and cleanse the body. Providing natural, environmentally friendly, and traditional medicine in products for these routines can improve the situation for relatives who are experiencing transition out of trauma. The Bathing Bundle features handmade, vegan, natural moisturizing soaps without chemical preservatives, scented with essential oils that evoke a calming effect and have traditionally promoted healing. The natural properties of these soaps are gentle on the person and the environment as they are 100% natural, with no synthetic dyes, fragrances, hormones or preservatives. Each bundle includes a travel-size all-natural facial bastille bar soap and travel size moisturizing bath/ shampoo essential oil bar.


Bath bundles

(Center) Teresa Agtuca-Cheam stirs a large batch of fresh facial soap. Safety equipment is important because activated lye can burn the skin. It is necessary for soap making to achieve saponification. Saponification is the chemical reaction produced by mixing activated lye and oils in which the lye bonds to the fat in the oils with the result being soap. (Left) Cutting and drying facial soaps after a 24 hour gel process. These soaps then spend 4 weeks curing on the rack before being bundled. (Right) Bath bars are garnished with cornflower petals, white sage, lavender, and lemongrass as a way to represent the essential oil in the soap as well as provide an additional fragrant touch. / Photos courtesy of NIWRC.

About the Bath Bundles

The Bathing Bundles feature traditional essential oils and scents: clary & white sage and flat cedar are incorporated into the soaps, representing familiar and authentic scents. Sage is used to prepare people for ceremonies and teachings, and for releasing what is troubling the mind and for removing negative energy. It is also used for cleansing homes and sacred items. Burning cedar provides protection, used to purify the home as well as also having many restorative medicinal uses. Cedar baths are healing. When cedar is put in the fire with tobacco, it crackles, calling the attention of the spirits to the offering that is being made.

Follow Terra Foama Soaps on Instagram @terrafoama or purchase products at TerraFoamaSoap.

About the Soap Maker

“This all started as a quarantine hobby,” said Teresa Agtuca-Cheam, the soap maker. “In March 2020, I decided I was terrible at gardening and decided to find a more satisfying passtime. I found an interesting community of soap makers on Instagram. After watching Youtube videos about soap making and reading about the hazards and safety procedures I decided to try it. I bought a starter kit and my very first batch was not terrible, but definitely a first try. I stuck with it, learned more from the online community and YouTube videos, and began sharing my soaps with family, friends, and co-workers. In August, I began selling on and by the end of October I officially opened my business—Terra Foama Soap.”

“I love making soap,” she added. “Traditional soap is made to nourish and cleanse; the simple ingredients are natural oils, soda ash, and natural scents derived from essential oils or spices. Soaps made without detergents or preservative additives and presented in plastic-free packaging are gentle to the earth and the skin. My mission is to create soaps that feed the skin and minimize environmental damage. When an opportunity for sharing my love of soap making and providing soaps to Native women and their children in need with NIWRC opened up in October, and I accepted! With COVID-19 rampaging through the country, it is so important to provide the tools to families to help with hygiene and wellness. The Bathing Bundle project provides all-natural face and body bath bars to tribal shelter programs nationally made possible by the RWN Foundation. I agreed to donate my time to the project, while the soap making supplies are provided by the grant.”