By: Shaina Semaña
The coronavirus is a tough enemy but fighting it should not be complicated. It’s pretty simple; practice social distancing and proper personal hygiene to avoid contacting and spreading the disease. When the World Health Organization confirmed the COVID-19 pandemic, they also reiterated in their notice to public that handwashing with water and soap is one of the most basic guidelines in fighting the coronavirus. It’s simple, grab soap and wash your hands religiously for at least 20 seconds to get rid of the virus. And to make it even easier, sing Happy Birthday while handwashing as it will run for approximately 20 seconds.
Featuring in our #SEAtizens movement this time is an organization that advocates the fight against spread of preventable diseases through frequent handwashing and sanitation—the Eco-Soap Bank or ESB. The organization based in Siam Reap in Cambodia is founded by social entrepreneur Samir Lakhani in 2014. The humanitarian organization dedicated its time and efforts to supplying soaps, improving health and hygiene practices first at the northern villages of Cambodia then eventually reaching out to communities in Africa and other Asian countries.
When the coronavirus disease became more apparent, the organization became more active in their advocacy as well. By March alone, they already have donated about 6,500 soaps to 80 institutions.
The mission of Lakhani, who was named as one of CNN’s Heroes in 2017, as well as ESB is not simply to improve health and hygiene in remote villages around the world through providing soaps. The organization considers their mission as three-fold; save, sanitize and supply. The process starts with getting leftover soaps from hotels then recycling these to produce cost-effective hygiene products. These soaps are then donated to the different villages in need—providing them not only with soap but with education about proper sanitation.
What makes Lakhani and the people behind ESB a true embodiment of a #SEAtizens is their dedication not only with soap recycling and distribution but their advocacy to help a lot of people who are in need of a livelihood. The nonprofit organization also provides livelihood for women with disadvantageous backgrounds. Presently, the organization employs about 147 women, engaging them in soap making and acts as hygiene ambassadors in their communities where they sell the soaps and promote proper hygiene.
This story and advocacy continue to inspire and motivate us, not only in the cause of improving health and hygiene to alleviate preventable diseases, but it also drives us to move and use our capabilities to help others, especially those who are most in need, during the time they need it the most.
For Lakhani, soap and hygiene education is our best armor to fight the pandemic. “At Eco-Soap Bank, we have always believed that hygiene is a basic human right,” he said in a statement shared with SEA Wave. “And we won’t stop until children and families get what they deserve in response to this crisis.”
The Eco-Soap Bank continues to help and seek contributions from everyone around the world. If you wish to extend a hand and help, visit their website at ecosoapbank.org for more information.
SEA Wave magazine’s SEAtizens initiative is a series of inspiring stories of people in Southeast Asia who champion the human spirit by demonstrating courage, ingenuity, generosity, and selflessness amidst the current crisis.