Hope from throw-away soap

Daily Mirror

With war and violence, fraud and corruption, drug addiction and sex addiction and the latest vice of “fake news”—which was chosen by Collins dictionary as the word of 2017—the media spotlight is more on negative factors instead of the positives. Thus society to a large extent has become negative. Most people’s lives are clouded by despair and anxiety if not depression.

Therefore it is an urgent and important mission for the media to spotlight more positive news and in this perspective, we would like to highlight the international cable television network CNN’s Top 10 Heroes of 2017.

The list was finalised after researches done for months and the 2017 Hero will be chosen on December 13. 

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Samir Lakhani

Among the top 10 is Cambodian student Samir Lakhani, who started the mission Eco-Soap Bank. He showed that used luxury hotel soap could save lives of children in his poverty-stricken country. For many Cambodians, a bar of soap is a luxury they cannot afford. Children living in rural areas are vulnerable to disease because they are unable to wash their hands.

According to UNICEF, diarrhoeal diseases alone account for one in five deaths of Cambodian children age 5 and younger, largely due to poor hygiene.

In 2014, as a college student, Samir Lakhani saw the issue firsthand while volunteering in a Cambodian village.

“I remember quite vividly a mother bathing her newborn in a basin filled with laundry powder and water,” said Mr Lakhani, now 24. “It’s an image I’ll never get out of my mind.”

Mr Lakhani was staying in a hotel in Cambodia, and he realised that one solution to the problem was being thrown away-barely-used bars of soap. So, he figured out a way to save this soap and give it a second life. While still attending the University of Pittsburgh, Lakhani started the Eco-Soap Bank. The non-profit recycles discarded bars of soap from hotels in Cambodia and distributes them to people in need.

Today, the movement has four recycling centres across the country, providing jobs to 35 local women. The used bars are sanitised and remoulded into new bars or melted down into liquid soap.

So far, more than 650,000 people have benefited from the group’s soap and hygiene education.

“What I love most is that we are killing three birds with one stone,” Mr Lakhani said. “We are keeping waste out of landfills, employing locals and spreading soap all over the country,” CNN says. Another of the top ten is Mona Patel.

On a spring day in 1990, Mona Patel was walking to class at California when a drunken driver slammed into her. She was 17.

Weeks later, when Ms Patel got out of the ICU, she underwent her first amputation. It was the start of seven years of surgery in attempts to salvage the rest of her leg. Ms Patel went on to earn a bachelor’s and two master’s degrees and became a social worker.

But along the way, as Ms Patel continued to struggle physically with her disability, she also struggled to find a support group for amputees. In 1997, with the prospect of another amputation, Ms Patel made a promise. “I vowed that once I got back on my feet, I would start one,” she said.

Today, Ms Patel’s nonprofit, the San Antonio Amputee Foundation, aims to help amputees rebuild their lives. The group offers peer support, education, recreation opportunities and financial assistance for basic home and car modifications and prosthetic limbs. Every month, 30 to 60 amputees get together to share stories and testimonies of strength and resilience. Ms Patel estimates more than 1,100 amputees have attended the meetings. In 2015, led by Ms Patel, a group of amputees climbed to the peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, the CNN reports.

Among the other 2017 heroes missions vary greatly: To provide loving homes for orphaned children, feed those in crisis or mend war’s psychological wounds. Yet, they all share one goal: To improve the lives of those around them.

This year’s top 10 CNN Heroes and heroines include a policewoman who empowers the children of Chicago’s South Side, and a determined mother employing dozens of developmentally challenged young adults.

In Sri Lanka also there are such individuals and movements working to restore the human dignity of impoverished or poverty trapped marginalised and voiceless people especially children. We hope media groups and others will highlight their work instead of spotlighting the negative factors of those seeking personal gain or glory, power prestige or popularity.

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