Doing Good In The 'Hood, Social Innovations, World — May 16, 2012 at 3:24 pm

Soap recycler sees role as fighting disease, infant mortality


Derreck Kayongo started the Global Soap Project to make soap available to the poor and “vulnerable” populations of Africa. So far his group has shipped 100,000 bars of recycled hotel soap to nine different countries.

We first heard about the idea of recycling hotel soap and redistributing it to the needy about eight months ago. It was announced in November that Turtle Island Recycling of Toronto would become the Canadian partner with an organization called Clean the World. They collect thousands of kilograms of soap every month from hotels mainly and recycle it for distribution where it’s needed.

Now we’ve heard of another organization, this one in Atlanta, Georgia called the Global Soap Project, that’s doing the same thing. It was started by Derreck Kayongo who comes form Uganda. He got the idea when he visited the US a few years ago and stayed in a hotel in Philadelphia. As is customary in hotels  in Europe and North America, the soap in his bathroom was changed every day, even though it had scarcely been used. Kayongo says that he was shocked by this since he thought he was being charged for the soap. When the concierge told him it was just hotel policy, “I couldn’t believe it.”

You might wonder why a person would be so concerned about a trivial thing like soap. It turns out that Kayongo’s father used to be a soap maker in Uganda, so perhaps his awareness of soap was heightened? In any case, he had the idea to take the discarded soap and remake it for people who couldn’t otherwise afford to buy it.

When you make just one dollar a day to live on, an expensive item like soap is just out of reach for millions of people, says Kayongo. The result is poor hygiene, and that leads to disease. He considers the soap project a “first line of defence” in the battle to combat child mortality around the world. More than 2 million children die from diarrheal illness every year, these deaths mainly occurring among toddlers living in low-income countries.

Kayongo and his family fled Uganda thirty years ago to escape the despotic rule of Idi Amin. He learned what it means to lose everything and to live as a refugee. Though he did not himself live in the squalid camps where thousands of refugees died, he learned about the hardship they faced by visiting the camps. Now that he’s a US citizen and college graduate, he wants to do what he can to help the people of Africa who are less fortunate.

The soap he collects and repackages goes to refugee camps, orphanages and schools, youth organizations to “vulnerable” people wherever they are.

So far they have shipped more than 100,000 bars to nine countries.

You can find out all about the Global Soap Project here.