Title: Global Soap Project’s Student Ambassador
Project: Global Soap Project
Hometown: Watertown, SD
I’ve collected more than 4,000 pounds of used bars of soap from more than 52 hotels and have enlisted more than 200 volunteers in three states and Manitoba, Canada. The soap is shipped to the Global Soap Project headquarters in Atlanta where it is reprocessed into new bars and sent by aid agencies to medically underserved populations primarily in Haiti and Africa. I also have been named the Global Soap Project’s Youth Ambassador.
Special training or skills needed:
None, it just takes a willingness to speak in front of groups and organizational skills to keep track of who donated the soap as well as staying on top of collection efforts.
How to build a network and support team:
I had to build a network of hotels by convincing management and staff that it was worthwhile to save the used soap instead of throwing it away. I also had to build a support team in other communities. I met with hotel staff and volunteers at other high schools to explain the fact that 2.6 million bars of soap were being thrown away daily and that 4 million people were dying annually from disease that could be prevented by hand washing. Once staff and volunteers realized that collecting and storing the soap was not difficult, they engaged in the project. I presently am working on securing regular transportation to Atlanta.
Helpful companies or agencies:
Six hotels that are part of the Watertown, SD, hospitality group agreed to help me start the project and they were used as the springboard for other hotels to get involved. Super 8 Hotels have engaged 23 of their properties in the Upper Midwest. I’ve received donations of copier paper boxes from large companies in my home town as well as storage facilities from a local automobile dealership. My local newspaper and radio stations have written stories about my project, as well as South Dakota Public Broadcasting and KELO television, the largest television station in South Dakota. The Watertown Volunteer Center named me the youth volunteer of the year, which helped draw attention to my project.
How to reach out to other orgs:
I approached the Watertown Hospitality Committee and asked to meet with them to start the project. I have volunteered to speak to high school groups in Sioux Falls, SD, and Fargo, ND, to help them engage their environmental clubs in the project. I also asked Watertown Box, a box manufacturing company, it donate boxes to provide to the hotels for collection. I have thanked these and others involved in my project by writing a thank-you letter to the editor of several newspapers. I am developing a contest for the hotel staff involved in collecting the soap to encourage more participation.
Tip: Starting a contest is a creative
way to increase involvement.
Global Soap Project: I relied on assistance from the Global Soap Project and communicate by staying in touch with its Facebook page as well as using my own.
Office Peeps and Angus Palm: I need a large number of copy paper boxes as these are sturdy and can store about 35 pounds of used soap. I have asked our local office supply company, Office Peeps, to save boxes, and Angus Palm, a large industry in our city also is saving boxes.
I use a computer and keep a spread sheet of all of the hotels and the amount of soap that each one collects.
Word to the wise:
Always keep good details about who is involved in your project and respond quickly to those who want to help.
Be consistent and punctual.
Keep working to engage more people in your project and pay attention to who can help you solve problems.
I guest blogged on The White House's "For the Win"
How to jump on the movement:
If you want to start a similar project on behalf of the Global Soap Project, you can contact me, Maren, GSP’s Youth Ambassador, at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the Global Soap Project through its website.
The project is expanding throughout the United States but presently is mostly concentrated in the Southeast and the Minnesota/Dakotas area. Here are a few links to stories that help tell the story about how my project started and expanded. I am looking for additional help in the Upper Midwest in particular.
Check out some press for the project: