Home Social Justice International Week keynote speaker Derreck Kayongo tells audience to take initiatives

International Week keynote speaker Derreck Kayongo tells audience to take initiatives

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Derreck Kayongo, creator of the Global Soap Project and a 2011 CNN Hero, gave the keynote speech for International Week on Wednesday evening at the Memorial Auditorium.

Kayongo gave a lively speech to a crowd of around 100 about taking problems in society and taking initiative to find ways to solve them. He talked about his own experiences on creating the Global Soap Project, from coming up with the idea to pitching it to corporations to receiving funding for the non-profit organization.

“The beautiful thing about this country is that… when an American sees a problem, and that problem becomes a fact to them, they do something about it,” Kayongo said during his speech.

The Global Soap Project works to provide hygiene products to underdeveloped countries. The project takes leftover bars of soaps from hotels across the United States and sends them to those who don’t have access to them otherwise.

Kayongo is a Ugandan native and former refugee who came up the idea for the Global Soap Project in 2009 after he realized that the hotel he was staying in threw away the multiple types of soap they provide at the end of every day. The Global Soap Project website states that 2.6 million bars of soap are thrown away by the hotel industry alone.

“In juxtaposition with that fact, you have two million people that die every year because… poor sanitation and hygiene, and soap is at the center of that particular problem,” Kayongo said. “And so like everybody else, I decided that I was going to do something about it.”

After his own failures of recycling his own soap, he created the Global Soap Project with his wife Sarah, which now creates thousands of bars of soap a day to give to countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and South America. The project also donates soap to homeless shelters in the United States.

Kayongo ended the event by bringing the audience together to sing a Swahili song.

Omar Kurdi, vice president of the International Student Union, believed that Kayongo’s speech tied into the International Week’s theme of working as an international family.

“The theme of International Week is our global family celebration, and that’s what we’re doing here,” Kurdi said. “We’re celebrating our global family, we’re celebrating our connections around the world, and how Derreck [Kayongo] connects the world through his Global Soap Project and gives back to the community. It ties in with a lot of themes, not only the themes of International Week but also themes of Ohio University.”

Residential Housing held a raffle during the event where whoever attended the event and was living on campus next year could enter to get an early pick on dorms for next year.

International Week is a weeklong event, culminating in the International Street Fair on Court Street on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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