Global Soap Project: how used soap is making a difference

Top 10 CNN Hero, Derreck Kayongo, shares how he came up with the idea for the Global Soap Project that saves hundreds of thousands of lives per year
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Global Soap Project: how used soap is making a difference

I came up with the Global Soap idea after I had checked into a hotel in Philadelphia and they had three bars of soap: facial soap, hand washing soap and body soap. And that did not include the shampoos. And I thought to myself, “Why do they have soap for every part of their bodies?” And I think that at that moment I decided to take the soaps and put them in my bag and hide them for the next day. And on the third day, as they kept on bringing more soap, I went to the concierge and I said to him, “Please, take back the soap, because I can’t afford them.” And he laughed at me and said, “No, you can have them. We already charged you for it.” I said, “But what happens to the partially used bar? What do you do with that?” And he said, “We throw those away.” And at that moment I realized that actually, there’s something here. How many hotels are in the US? There’s 4.6 million hotel rooms in this country and we throw away 2.6 million bars of soap every day as a result of those rooms. In aggregate, that’s 800 million bars of soap. That’s a lot. And that’s how the idea has come to me. It was a big story idea and I knew that we had to do something with it. How do you make a difference with it? I think the way you make a difference with it is that then you look at the victims in Africa – because I’m a former refugee – we have 2 million kids that die every year globally, because they don’t have soap. They die of diarrhea. And the Centre for Disease Control has said that if you put a bar of soap in their hands and teach them how to bathe and wash, you cut down those diseases by 40%. That’s how you make a difference – you see the problem, you see the need, and you then see the solution. And then you bring these together and you’ve solved it.

Top 10 CNN Hero, Derreck Kayongo, shares how he came up with the idea for the Global Soap Project that saves hundreds of thousands of lives per year


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Derreck Kayongo

Parent with a Purpose

Derreck Kayongo is a social entrepreneur and the founder of The Global Soap Project. An executive and development expert, Derreck Kayongo has more than 15 years experience developing strategic social campaigns within organizations for cause-related advocacy, public policy, issue management, and community organizing. His work has made a profound contribution in raising awareness aimed at realizing permanent solutions to global poverty.

Kayongo’s journey from child refugee to fearless visionary is filled with moments of inspiration (along with the benefits of good, old-fashioned sweat equity) that make him one of the most popular – and authentic – speakers on the circuit today. From Africa to Atlanta with nothing but a dream and tenacity, Kayongo beat the odds, earned an education, and has served in leadership roles in some of the world’s most respected non-governmental agencies (NGOs) since 1994. Today, he shares his vivacious spirit and invaluable experience in the areas entrepreneurship, environmental sustainability, global health, social justice and professional engagement with audiences in both the corporate and not-for-profit worlds.

Derreck Kayongo’s ability to motivate others to understand the role their work and skills can play in problem solving is one of the many reasons he was chosen as a finalist for the 2011 CNN Hero of the Year AwardAdd to that the mantra of being a voice for the voiceless through his noble work of giving back, including dedicating his life to improving the lives of marginalized and vulnerable people across the globe: he has worked with the American Friends Service Committee as Program Director for the Southeast Peace Education program; joined Amnesty International as the Director of the Southeast Region; and currently serves as Senior Advocacy Coordinator for the Southeast region with CARE International.

In 2009, Kayongo and his wife Sarah embarked on a new journey pursuing their life-long passion of starting an NGO of their own. The Global Soap Project focuses on repurposing partially-used soap from hotels into new soap for needy populations, particularly in Africa. To date, The Global Soap Project has been able to donate 9,000 bars of soap to Swaziland, 5,000 bars to Kenya, 10,000 to Ghana, 1,000 to Uganda and another 3,000 to Haiti.

Derreck Kayongo is a proud naturalized U.S. citizen. He has been recognized as a 2011 CNN HEROES finalist and a COX Enterprise nominee; honored by Congressman John Lewis with a Certificate of Congressional Recognition; is currently writing his autobiography; has been featured in more than 20 news stories in the U.S., featured on Fox News as part of the Real American story series; featured on CNN with Fredricka Whitfield.

Since 1994, Derreck Kayongo has given more than 300 speeches on key issues related to poverty reduction in Africa; mainly on water and sanitation, soap, HIV/AIDS, Child Soldiers, Health and Sanitation, Impact of Landmines in Africa, Countries in Conflict and role of basic Education for Girls in Africa.

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