(CNN) – In 2014, as a college student volunteering in Cambodia, Samir Lakhani saw that many rural villages did not have access to soap or hygiene education.
Determined to change that, Lakhani set up hubs around the country to recycle soap from local hotels and provide jobs in the community.
His organization, eco-soap bank, has since donated more than 186,000 bars of soap and helped more than 650,000 Cambodians in need.
In the west, we take soap for granted. But for millions of Cambodians that is not the case. Many Cambodians cannot afford a bar of soap. So they’re gonna prioritize feeding their families. When children do not wash their hands they are vulnerable to illnesses, which unfortunately can take their life.
Cambodia is home to the legendary Angkor Wat temples which brings in approximately 2 to 4 million tourists every single year. Hotels have sprung up to meet that demand. While I was working in Cambodian villages I quickly realize that the soap was under my feet the entire time. Every single day housekeepers throw the used bars of soap away. So I decided to save those used soap bars and solve a few problems at the same time. Once every month, we visit a hotel to collect any used soap that has been generated.
We sanitize the bars, and remold them into brand new bars. Our soap recyclers are all local women who were striving to find some source of reliable incomes.
We collaborate with organizations and get our soap into the hands of people who need it the most. We also believe that bars of soap bars is not nearly enough to change the behaviors of these communities.
It must also be accompanied with hygiene education. No child should suffer because there simply wasn’t any soap available.
My hope for Cambodia’s youth, is for them to take their own health into their very own hands, just by a simple act such as hand washing.