Saving lives in Uganda, Haiti and Kenya with recycled hotel soap

By John D. Sutter, CNN

Check out this recent story on a CNN Heroes candidate, Derreck Kayongo.

Kayongo’s non-profit, the Global Soap Project, recycles half-used soap from hotels and makes it into new soap that can be used in the developing world, where, he says, the high costs of soap prohibit healthy sanitation.

In essence, Kayongo’s thesis is this: Soap can save lives.

More from the story on the origins of this project:

Kayongo, a Uganda native, thought of the idea in the early 1990s, when he first arrived to the U.S. and stayed at a hotel in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He noticed that his bathroom was replenished with new soap bars every day, even though they were only slightly used.

“I tried to return the new soap to the concierge since I thought they were charging me for it,” Kayongo said. “When I was told it was just hotel policy to provide new soap every day, I couldn’t believe it.”

And I love this bit of perspective about one of his first hotel experiences in the United States. Sometimes it takes someone who is outside a given system to see how that system might be flawed. I stay in lots of hotels and never thought twice about the soap:

“I was shocked just to know how much (soap) at the end of the day was thrown away,” Kayongo said. Each year, hundreds of millions of soap bars are discarded in North America alone. “Are we really throwing away that much soap at the expense of other people who don’t have anything? It just doesn’t sound right.”

 ABOUT Derreck Kayongo

“Derreck Kayongo has been a colleague of mine at CARE for several years. Derreck is not only a leader and social entrepreneur but also an agent of change. He has made it his mission to be a voice for the voiceless, poor and marginalized. He speaks with passion, eloquence and authenticity. His personal experience in overcoming tragedy at an early age and using the obstacles he faced as an opportunity to change the world around him is a powerful story of inspiration. He speaks from the heart with tremendous conviction, wit and humor about the power we all hold to make a difference in the lives of others.”
— Helene D. Gayle, MD, MPH President and CEO, CARE

Fleeing the rule of dictator Idi Amin as a child in Uganda…

Monitoring elections with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter in Sierra Leone and Ethiopia…

Joining forces with the hospitality industry to create a sustainable, simple yet brilliant recycling solution to the growing problem of soap disposal…

Derreck Kayongo has some amazing stories to tell.

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 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 has been nominated as a 2011 CNN Hero. Add 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 Projectfocuses 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, 1000 to Uganda and another 3,000 thousand to Haiti.

Derreck Kayongo is a proud naturalized U.S. citizen. He has been recognized as a CNN HEROES nominee 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, et al.

Business Administration Major, Messiah College Grantham PA
Communication Minor
Economic Development,
Conflict Resolution Certificate, Ottawa University


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