The son of a Ugandan soap manufacturer, Derreck Kayongo made soap his life’s mission by helping the world’s needy ward off disease. His efforts earned him the CNN Hero Award in 2011.

On Thursday, Kayongo was in San Antonio to honor the JW Marriott Resort and Spa as the Global Soap Project’s top donor last year among its 1,100 participating hotels.

He urged other hotels to follow their lead.

“Think twice about it. Think twice about what we can do with soap you’re throwing away, “ Kayongo said.

Andrea Bejarano, the hotel’s assistant director of services, said with 1,002 rooms, “We collect a lot of soap on a daily basis.”

Bejarano said in 2012, the hotel donated 9,233 pounds of soap, and since it began with the program in 2011, it has collected more than 18,000 pounds to date.

“Needless to say, part of our staff comes from Third World countries, so it comes really, really close to our heart,” Bejarano said.

Kayongo personally thanked the hotel’s housekeeping staff.

“You are the most important people in this hotel,” Kayongo said.

He said by making the rooms presentable for guests, they return, use more soap, and in so doing, the Global Soap Project and nearly 30 of the world’s poorest countries, stand to benefit.

Kayongo said the soaps are separated by color and hotel, then undergo a rigorous sanitizing process and testing. He said a machine separates the dirt, before being heated to 100 degrees.

Kayongo said long bars then emerge before being sliced up into individual bars.

He said countless lives have been saved through simple hygiene.

Kayongo said his idea has come a long way since arriving in the U.S.

Back then, he asked a hotel concierge back then what happens to all those partially used soaps.

Having spent time in a refugee camp after his family was displaced by war three decades ago, Kayongo said, “He told me they throw them away and I was heartbroken.” 

For a list of recent stories Jessie Degollado has done, click here.

Images: Global Soap Project

Published On: May 16 2013 08:17:22 PM CDT
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