Heartbeat: Lather for the needy

Heartbeat: Lather for the needy

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The volunteers were hard at work carving their soap
The volunteers were hard at work carving their soap
Seeing me wearing a surgical mask and plastic gloves, anyone would have thought I was at an operation theatre. But no, I was actually helping out at Soap Cycling Hong Kong.

Soap Cycling Hong Kong is an organisation that collects used soaps from prestigious hotels, and stores them in their warehouse. Volunteers carve dirt and other impurities out of the soap. The soap bars are then put into a machine, the machine works its magic, and new soap bars emerge. These soap bars are then distributed to those in third-world countries such as Cambodia and India.

But I still wondered: why recycle soap?

The answer was simple: people die every day from diseases caused by a lack of sanitation. The solution to these problems lies in the mass distribution of soap, as it plays an important role in improving personal hygiene and has the potential to reduce the number of deaths caused.

Usually students who volunteer get to interact with the elderly or tutor kids, but this unusual volunteering opportunity presented itself, and I decided to help out.

As I walked through the hallways of the soap cycling factory, the aroma of soaps enticed my nose. It was fragrant at first, but as we got closer, the smell became irritating, and wearing a surgical mask was necessary for nasal protection.

A group of volunteers gathered, and we began to scour dirt and impurities off the soap bars.

The filth factor stood at a reasonable level, with dusty, grayish marks being a common sight, accompanied by a few strands of hair. But the real shock came when one volunteer spotted a dead cockroach stuck to the surface of the soap bar. Luckily, no more nasty surprises popped up, and we were protected by our safety gloves.

I learned something else: that wearing gloves for a number of hours really causes a sweat. The sweat glands begin to hammer away at their jobs, and by the time we were done, our sweaty palms were in desperate need of a wash.

On the whole, it was a unique experience: recycling soap to make an amenity for the underprivileged across the globe, what were the odds that I could do that? When it comes to situations like these, one man’s trash truly is another man’s treasure.


The machine responsible for turning carved soap bars into new ones

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