As seen in Compass:
International Week speaker discusses sanitation efforts, inspires change
Apr 19, 2015
By McKenzie Powell
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his is your tribe,” Derreck Kayongo said April 15 in Templeton Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium as he pointed to an Ohio University sign. “Make your tribe happy by doing amazing things globally.”
An entrepreneur who was named a Top 10 CNN Hero in 2011, Kayongo delivered the keynote speech for Ohio University’s International Week, sharing with the OHIO and Athens communities his life journey – a journey that began in war-torn Uganda and led to him founding the non-profit Global Soap Project. He used his personal accounts, peppered with his unique sense of humor, to not only explain his organization’s goal of global sanitation education but also to show the audience that they could similarly make a difference in the world and initiate change.
Kayongo explained that the beginnings of the Global Soap Project are rooted in his childhood experiences in Uganda as refugee. He and his family fled the African country, which was mired in civil war, in 1979 when Kayongo was 10 years old, but the things he witnessed as a refugee instilled in him the importance of sanitation and having something as simple as soap.
Nearly two million children, he said, die every year as the result of poor sanitation – tragedy that could easily be prevented by having soap and clean water.
Kayongo said he was reminded of this during his first stay in an American hotel where, to his surprise, his room came with three bars of soap, which were replaced each day without any added fees. He soon learned that within the United States hotel industry, approximately 2.6 million bars of soap are thrown out every day.
Inspired to change the world in a meaningful way, Kayongo founded the Global Soap Project in 2009 as a means to save soap that was being wasted daily and, concurrently, to save lives. He developed a factory where leftover, and in many cases completely unused, soap from hotels could be transformed into new, safe, pathogen-free bars of soap that could be distributed to areas in need. Today, the Global Soap Project produces an estimated 30,000 bars of soap per week and donates them to individuals in more than 20 countries. And while the organization started with very little funding, today hotels are paying the nonprofit to take their leftover soap to help in the fight to save lives.
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