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Derreck Kayongo - Inspirational & Motivational Stories

Derreck Kayongo - Global Soap Project

A bar of soap for every one

I am sure no one has taken a moment to think about where the unused or barely used bars of soap at hotel rooms land up at the end of the day. In most cases, that bar of soap goes to waste. Why you ask? Because most hotels around the world have a policy to keep a fresh bar of soap in rooms for guests while they dispose of the old one.

For Derreck Kayongo, learning of the disposal of these bars of soap was a real surprise. The immense wastage of soap first came to the attention of the Ugandan humanitarian and social entrepreneur during his first stay in a U.S. hotel in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the early 1990s. Checking into the hotel he saw there were 3 bars of soap - a body soap, hand soap and face soap. And he thought to himself what does one do with so many soaps for different body parts? Kayongo, 41, had spent much of his childhood as a refugee in Kenya. The horrific memories because of the mass torture and killings by former Ugandan military dictator Idi Amin which led to massive poverty and displacement were still alive. The wastage of soap in hotel rooms gave him an idea. Why not reprocess these wasted soaps and give them to those who really need it in the under developed countries.

One day, Kayongo must have said "I will convert waste soap into soap for the needy" which ultimately led to the birth the Global Soap Project. This non-profit organization reprocesses used soaps from hotels around the United States and turns them into new soap bars for the impoverished nations such as Uganda, Kenya, Haiti and Swaziland.

For Kayongo, collecting soap became "a first line of defense" to combat child-mortality around the world. With nearly 2.6 million bars of soap discarded every day from hotels in the United States, Kayongo could help poor countries fight disease and combat child mortality by improving access to basic sanitation. Based in Atlanta, Kayongo started the Global Soap Project in 2009 by going door to door, pitching his idea to local hotels. Till date, nearly 300 hotels across the United States have joined the life saving cause, enabling him and his team to reprocess thousands of soap bars and ship them to 18 developing countries. "We do not mix the soaps because they come with different pH systems, different characters, smells and colors," Kayongo said. "We sanitize them first, then heat them at very high temperatures, chill them and cut them into final bars. It's a very simple process, but a lot of work," Says Kayongo. Only when the recycled soap is tested for pathogens and deemed safe by a third-party laboratory, it is shipped overseas with the help of partner organizations. Nearly two million children die every year due to lower respiratory diseases like diarrhea. Putting a bar of soap in their hands allows reduction of infectious diseases like diarrhea, typhoid and cholera by 40%.

For Kayongo, it was not just about Africa but it was about improving the standard of living for mankind which is the everyday mission of the Global Soap Project. Another great example of what you can do when you set your mind to do it.

Its no wonder, Kayongo is a CNN Hero.

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