A clean solution: Global Soap Project founder speaks on ways to ease social issues

DSC 0010
Kayongo was awarded the 2011 CNN Hero Award for his work.

Lauren Moore
Blazer News Editor

The first time that Derreck Kayongo, Global Soap Project founder and former CEO of the Center for Civil and Human Rights, stayed in a hotel in America, he said that he was amazed at how many bars of soap the hotel had given him to use, supplying him with one for his face, his body and his hands. 

After staying for a few days and putting the soap he wasn’t using into his suitcase, Kayongo said that he confessed to a hotel employee that he was stealing the soap and he’d like to return it. Kayongo said that the employee told him not to worry about it and that everyone takes it as it is free.

Kayongo said that he also learned from the employee that the hotel’s policy was to throw any soap away, used or not, that was left in the hotel room day to day. 

According to TheObserver.com, 800 million bars of hotel soap are thrown away in the U.S. every single year.  Kayongo said that this number baffled him, and that he decided there had to be some way he could recycle the soap. Eventually, Kayongo said he realized that if he vacuum-sealed the soaps for a certain amount of time, all of the bacteria would die without any oxygen to thrive off of.  

“For me, the value comes from having been a victim [of the Ugandan civil war],” Kayongo said. “Being a victim is sometimes what makes you see the value of the marketplace.” 

Thus, the Global Soap Project was born. The company takes used soaps from hotels, sanitizes them and then forms new bars of soap out of them. There are currently three factories that process the soap in Vegas, Orlando and Hong Kong.  Kayunga said that these factory locations have been picked because of their extremely large population and the hotel density in the cities. The next factory to open will be in England due to the hotel density in the country.  

The soap that is made in these factories is then given to refugees around the world. Kayongo said these soaps help refugees in multiple ways. For example, little girls can now attend school and no longer worrying about thier hygiene, with many refugee girls being bullied because of the way they smell.  Kayongo said that he prides himself in knowing that he is helping young girls to be able to get an education and feel better about themselves. He said he is also happy to see the soap use deter some of the diseases that can be cut down just by washing your hands, such as childbed fever and lower respiratory diseases.  

Kayongo said that he credits his success as an entrepreneur to his parents, who left their jobs as teachers and found ways to be successful in business. His father started a business making soap and his mother became a David’s Bridal franchise owner.  

“I think parents should be the most inspiring thing a child should have,” Kayongo said. “My father, learning a new skill, seeing him fail every day in making soap, was probably the best education I could have gotten. My mother taught me to have intuition.” 

Now, in addition to his humanitarian work, Kayongo travels the world sharing the stories of his life and letting other know how they can find success. He was also awarded the 2011 CNN Hero Award.  To students at UAB, Kayongo said that they need to think of activism in their community like an insurance policy.  

“I can’t pay for everybody’s insurance coverage,” Kayongo said. “But, we can all pull together and create a fund so that in the event that, say, any of us gets into a car accident or something happens, that we take care of each other. The contribution is mutual, it is valued and respected.”
About - Student Media

UAB Student Media is the home of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s student-run media outlets. They include Kaleidoscope , an award-winning weekly newspaper; BlazeRadio, our 24-hour online radio station live on the TuneIn app; Aura, a much-heralded literary arts magazine; and UABTV, original, web-based video programming. UAB students operate all media. The articles, posts, newscasts and opinions are solely those of its student writers, producers, editors, deejays, etc. and do not reflect that of the university, its administrators or the Student Media advisors.


survey button3