Many of the stories we get from organizations are light and happy. They are about success stories of teaching people to make soap and teaching them to wash their hands, and normally SoapBox works hard to focus on what we can do, instead of focusing on what we can’t. However, it’s so often that these people feel so far away that it’s hard to really get how soap is affecting them personally. Then there are stories like this one that gives us a sense of what soap means to these people, and why what we all do together to help is worth it.
In January of 2013, SoapBox was able to fund a soap drop, the first of a continuing relationship, for an amazing organization called Urban Light. Urban Light is a human trafficking prevention organization founded by Alezandra Russel. The organization tackles the difficult issue of human trafficking in unique ways in Chiang Mai, Thailand, focusing on an involved group that seems to almost be forgotten.
When talking about human trafficking and prostitution situations, girls usually are the focus of efforts. However, many don’t know that young boys are caught up in this issue too. Urban Light runs a youth center in Chiang Mai to provide education, health services, housing, and emergency care for these boys, many of them homeless, and give them back a sense of dignity. The organization also works to reintegrate boys back into the village community and prevent future trafficking through youth empowerment camps. The focus of one of these camps was handwashing, for reasons further explained below.
On the very first soap drop, Urban Light team members essentially were just placing soap into the hands of villagers, along with basic health kits which included things like aspirin, band aids etc. During this time, they met one little girl (pictured left) in the village who had a goofy, memorable personality, and everyone one grew to know her. A few months later, the Urban Light team heard the girl had passed away from a disease that could have been easily prevented from just having soap and proper hygiene care. Because of this, they decided to put on the youth empowerment camp with the theme of handwashing education and it’s importance, feeling that this girl’s life could have been saved if she had gone to a camp like this.
There hasn’t been another soap drop like this in around a year, but Urban Light now puts SoapBox soaps in the survival kits that are distributed to the homeless boys that are on the street in Northern Thailand. Alezandra explained that when these boys are involved in survival sex and prostitution, a shower gives them new dignity and a way to wash away the night before and the things that happened.
I want you to understand in reading this that your purchases are literally saving the lives of children, literally giving them dignity when they feel they have lost it, and literally giving them hope that their future doesn’t consist of more of what the present has given them. With organizations like Urban Light, true change is happening and you can be a part of that.
Learn more or donate to Urban Light at www.urban-light.org.