So Others Are Protected (SOAP)
SOAP is a self-empowerment initiative designed to take on some of the simpler issues surrounding sanitation and the spread of disease in Southeast Asia. It functions on the donation of used, previously discarded soap from luxury hotels. These shards are then recycled, by locals, through a process of cleaning, melting and reshaping into new bars of soap to produce a sustainable source of sanitation in communities and for individuals where a deficiency exists. The goal is to initiate a multiplying effect. SOAP works with rural communities to promote sanitation, health education, emphasize community capacity building, and provide an alternative livelihood for at-risk women and girls. Further, we ensure that once people receive soap, they have access to it for the rest of their lives. We create an immediate sustainable positive health impact, without creating dependence.
More than 800 children die every day from diarrhea caused by inadequate access to clean water or poor hygiene. Diarrhea remains the second leading cause of death among children under five globally. Together, pneumonia and diarrhea account for an estimated 40 percent of all child deaths around the world each year. Nearly one in five child deaths – about 1.5 million each year – are due to diarrhea. It kills more young children than AIDS, malaria and measles combined. Africa and South Asia alone are home to more than 80 percent of child deaths due to diarrhea.
Our goal is to eliminate the incidence of preventable childhood deaths entirely, one bar of soap at a time.
HOW THE OBJECTIVES WERE ACHIEVED
SOAP is not designed as aid, but rather as a self-empowerment initiative. The partially-used and discarded soap shard are accumulated and transported to remote villages and communities along the Thai-Burmese border, where we work to promote and encourage: sanitation, health education, community capacity building, and sustainable economic growth and stability.
SOAP's campaign is strictly an empowerment initiative. This means keeping a western presence to a minimum. Our role is to coordinate, organize and supply. Once we establish relationships between hotels and villages, coordinate soap delivery, and educate villagers (and village leaders to maintain and spread awareness), our only role is to maintain contact with all participating parties, and intervene if there are complications or additional support is required. Due to the nature of this model, corruption risks are eliminated, and an emphasis is applied to environmentally friendly practices and sustainability. The next phase of the campaign will target sexual and reproductive health in the developing world.
SOAP is currently partnered with seven villages and unofficial refugee communities, and twelve luxury hotels. Not only have we worked to bridge the gap and build relationships between urban and rural communities, but we have provided meaningful work opportunities of young women and girls at risk to support their own communities, as well as support themselves through learning trade skills and how to run small businesses. We have facilitated hundreds of hours of health education workshops, and equipped communities with the knowledge and skills to protect themselves from preventable disease and illness.
One of many challenges that threatened the initiative’s growth and holistic approach was communication. Another challenge has been distance. Thus, this operation thrives on the support, conversation and coordination between local and village leaders, NGOs operating in the areas of need, and luxury hotels in Southeast Asia.
It was the struggle to communicate that came along with my status that posed a devastating threat to the initiative’s possibility. I then began studying Thai. For hours on end after school, I worked with a Johns Hopkins professor. As my ideas developed, so did my Thai vocabulary. And as the project took form, so did my grammar and sentence structure. I have studied for three years now. My achieved level of language proficiency has allowed me to share my knowledge about health practices, disease prevention and emergency preparedness to my greatest capacity.