Louisa (Loulou) Byars grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, where she first engaged in service in partnership with Water Mission, a non-profit engineering organization that strives to create solutions for water scarcity and sanitation around the world. Over the course of her sophomore year of high school, Loulou raised over $30,000 to send a Living Water Treatment System to a village called Xanil in Chiapas, Mexico, that would provide convenient, safe water to over 2,000 people in the community. In November of 2018, she traveled to Chiapas to visit the newly installed system and meet the people who were benefiting from it. As a summer intern at Water Mission in 2019, Loulou worked to raise money to fund a sanitation program in another village she visited called San Luis which would provide 150 latrines throughout the community.
Through independent research and resources provided by the Ingram Scholars Program, Loulou began investigating the devastating social and environmental impacts of the garment industry and has now shifted her service focus toward ethical fashion. The pandemic gave Loulou the opportunity to partner remotely during the summer of 2020 with Awamaki, a Peruvian organization that empowers indigenous female weavers. Through this internship Loulou observed how responsible garment production can be used as a means of economic empowerment for women and, as a result, entire communities. During the spring of 2021 and into her 2021 Summer Project, Loulou worked with a similar organization in Guatemala called Mercado Global. She served as the Sustainable Design intern, working closely with the head designer to introduce environmentally sustainable sourcing and practices into the organization’s supply chain. The focus of her Summer Project with Mercado Global was to create a template for assessing the environmental and social impact of each product collection in order to allow future employees to create impact reports for potential donors and customers.
In addition to Loulou’s service, she has also been involved on campus with the Vanderbilt Programming Board’s Fanatics Committee as a member and co-chair, the Student Alumni Board, and Pi Beta Phi Sorority. In the fall of 2021, Loulou will complete her capstone internship at Newly, a social enterprise in Nashville that produces 100% recycled home goods. As Loulou enters her final year at Vanderbilt and in the Ingram Scholars program, she is eager to make a lasting impact on the community and her peers before she begins her next chapter.