Soapmakers Doing Good: Hope Arising

The following blog post was written by student Brooke Lund, of Mapleton, Utah. Check out what she did with the information gained in our 2-Day Soap Bootcamp. We are so proud of her. Get ready to be inspired!

My introduction to Ethiopia started in March 2011. My husband Trace Lund and I were invited to be part of a dental team going over to the village of Dera with the Charity Hope Arising. As we saw the area and met the people, my heart was filled with sadness. Our clinic was successful and we were able to see and help many people who waited hours and days to be seen, but as I came home from that trip, I had a feeling that there was more I needed to do.

The foremost problem vexing Dera, Ethiopia is water. Villagers stand in line for days only to receive a few gallons of water. Imagine not knowing when or for how long the water will flow. Imagine not being able to leave your place in line or risk being passed up. Imagine being in line in the middle of the night with hyenas prowling around. This is no imaginary situation. This is reality for the people of Dera; a cycle of scarcity that can’t be broken without help. Part of the mission of Hope Arising was to bring water to an area that had none. So over the past 4 years, Hope Arising has been trying to raise the money to bring a pipeline of water into this area. As the project has been started and some areas are receiving water, the thoughts that filled me were the need to help with other aspects of what water can do for them.

I decided to return again this past March 2012. I focused on three areas of education: Basic Hygiene, Feminine Hygiene, and Soap Making. Many of the diseases that are causing death in the children are those that can be avoided with basic hygiene education. With that came the need to help them understand the importance of washing their hands and giving them tools to make this process easier. As I researched and communicated with people in that area, I was told that they do have access to soap, but it is the small thin bars that you usually get in a hotel and that they were very expensive, so most people did not purchase them. So with that information, I decided to focus on teaching a soap making class while I was there. A friend of mine who has made soap for year had taught a class that I attended a year before, so I enlisted her help in better understanding the soap making world. We tried many different recipes and then came to the realization that the people would probably use the cheapest oil they could purchase. I searched the web and found The Nova Studio website and was very curious to see what else I could learn.  We attended the Nova Studio Soap Making BootCamp, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It helped with understanding a bit more about the difference in oils and processes others used. It just clicked for me and I was able to create some recipes that I could teach in my class.

For the next several weeks, I experimented with several different batches of soap trying to mimic the conditions I would be dealing with in Ethiopia. It is hot enough there that most of their oils are in a liquid state which was good since a heating source is a little more tricky than just turning on the stove or using a microwave. Their lye came in pellets instead of crystals or a liquid, which after using, didn’t really change anything (you just had to stir it longer). I felt I was as prepared as I could get without actually doing it there.

I had a group of ladies from the community, some health care workers, school teachers, and some of the older high school children attend the class. This would be our pilot program in hopes that these people would be able to re-teach this process after doing it themselves. I started with the basic chemistry and tried to explain saponification. A friend gave me the idea to teach it with pictures that they would understand rather than try and teach chemistry through a translator. It worked great and they actually understood it (I think). I used a Lion as the Lye, Zebras as the Oil and the finished product were Cows (something very useful). I won’t go into all the details, but it worked. I made the first batch showing them how to do it and then split them into groups to work together and make their own batches so that they could have the hands-on experience.

It was so fun to see the excitement and see them working together to create something that could change their lives, literally. We waited until the next day and then had them take turns cutting the soap. They were so excited and so grateful. I took some knee high nylons and gave them each one and told them to use it as a soap holder. It was a little funny because they don’t wear them and weren’t really sure what they were, but when I showed them to put the soap inside the nylon and tie it to their hand washing station, they thought that was pretty cool. They did so well and were so excited to be able to share this education with others.

As a follow-up, I just received a report from our in-country director that they have set up 8 classes of 40 people each to teach the soap making process. Many want to use it as an income generating opportunity and some to just take care of their own families. I was so happy and so excited to see the progress that can now be made.

My hope is that through better educating and teaching things that for us are simple and mostly taken for granted, that lives will be changed and saved for many generations to come. I have grown to love the people of Dera and am so grateful for the lessons I have learned in working with them. They are a very humble and happy people.

Thanks so much to Brooke for sharing her amazing story with us. If you would like to know more about the Hope Arising charity, please click here.

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2 Responses to Soapmakers Doing Good: Hope Arising

  1. Brooke Lund February 26, 2013 at 1:01 pm #

    This was such a great experience. I actually just returned on the Feb 24, 2013 from a trip to the same area. I was able to teach another class on soap making which the women love to learn about. It is something that makes them feel confidence in. They have learned a new skill and that can be very empowering.

  2. Lori at The Nova Studio February 26, 2013 at 1:07 pm #

    Thank you so much for sharing with us, Brooke! I’m so glad we were able to tell your story to our readers :)

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