The Little Things: In Charles Nolan’s Memory, Andy Tobias is funding this
Published: Feb 22, 2011
Lisa Becker writes to Andy Tobias, who just lost Charles: “This past Christmas Day I was home cooking for my husband when I saw a news report about a grass roots organization operating here in Atlanta, the Global Soap Project. It was founded by a man named Derreck Kayongo. He and his family fled from Uganda during Idi Amin’s terror in the late 70’s. Derreck has since become successful. He was staying in a hotel when he saw a housekeeper throw away a bar of soap that had been used once. He saw an opportunity. The Global Soap Project has organized literally dozens of hotels, first in Atlanta, then around the country, to save those used bars of soap. They are shipped to a warehouse here, sanitized, and formed into new bars of soap. They are then shipped to refugee camps and to displaced people around the world.
As a healthcare worker, I was immediately hooked, because I saw the bigger implications. The World Health Organization estimates that a child dies of a preventable disease every 30 seconds, simply because they can’t cleanse themselves. If a mother can cleanse herself before she breast feeds her baby, if a family can wash their food before they eat it, to wash their kitchen utensils, to bathe, and wash their clothes – this is a project that has the possibility of saving lives and alleviating suffering. I will be present for this project for the long haul.
As a new volunteer, this is what I saw. The warehouse is small, located off of an access road behind a strip center. When you first walk in, first of all there is grated soap all over the floor. On one wall of the warehouse, there are literally piles of garbage bags full of soap ready to be processed. Volunteers like me work in shifts.To sanitize the soap, we scrape off the outside with a potato peeler. The clean soap is then grated, then put into a machine that looks like a giant pasta maker. The machine melts the soap, then forms it into one long bar of soap at the end of the machine. The soap is cut into generously sized bars, then packaged into crates, ready to ship.
Derreck has told me that he has to be very careful about shipping the bars. In those parts of the world, products like ours can end up on the black market, so he only uses volunteer organizations that he trusts, like Amnesty International. (Derreck told me that he once followed a Global Soap shipment to a refugee camp in Africa. When the mothers in the village saw what had been brought to them, they were so overjoyed they danced in the street.)
I also saw as a new volunteer that this organization is a grass roots as they come, working on a shoe string budget. Derreck pays for the warehouse himself. They had a wish list for supplies a mile long that wasn’t being met. I worked a Global Soap shift today and had to make two trips in my car to bring in all of the supplies. It will take me time, the list is long.
Isn’t it funny how so many things are connected? Because your book helped my husband and me 20 years ago, we have the money to do things like this…My husband David and I are like peas and carrots. We adore each other, and there is going to be a time that we will have to face what you are right now. One being without the other. That’s why I like believing in an afterworld. Our bodies are just shells. We’re vulnerable. But there are some things that never die, like true love. No matter what, we’ll see each other later.