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Dartmouth Student Wins National Award For Her Nonprofit Organization

Aug 08, 2017 04:50PM ● By Linda Ditch
As a high school freshman, Dartmouth College student Sydney Kamen had never traveled out of the country. Then she won a scholarship to study marginalized youth at risk in Thailand, where she was able to spend time in refugee camps and learn about international health disparities. From there, her passion for women’s rights and education combined with her studies on health disparities to create SOAP (So Others Are Protected), a nonprofit organization that repurposes soap from hotels to provide underserved countries with sanitation to reduce disease and illness.       

Recently, Sydney’s efforts won her the 2017 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award, a $36,000 award that recognizes teens for their commitment to social good and volunteer service. She took the time to answer a few questions about her organization and what’s coming in the future.

Q: During your travels, was there a person or event that touched you the most?

A: I am inspired by the courageous men and women who brave the fight for change, for the rights of the oppressed, for justice, against all odds, obstacles, and at the risk of their own lives over a lifetime and all over the world. I continue to be shown and reminded of the power and strength of the human spirit and the nature of our species to help others.

Q: How did the idea to utilize hotel soaps to help others come about?

A: The lack of access to soap and basic sanitation was a foreign concept to me growing up but is a reality faced by billions. Inadequate sanitation can lead to reduced academic performance and delays in academic and social development, and it can have a negative impact on future earning potential for women and girls. This is one of the many injustices I plan to dedicate my career to addressing, and So Others Are Protected (SOAP) was my first step in doing so.

The idea to collect discarded soap from luxury hotels to repurpose at the local level arose when I realized how expensive and unsustainable it was to simply ship soap to communities in need. However, the greater and more intricate foundation of the SOAP model is the product of the work of the women and healthcare workers in our partner communities. Soap is an underrated resource with world-changing potential. And until the reality of children dying due merely to lack of access no longer exists, I will not stop fighting for what I believe to be a fundamental human right.

Q: What does the future hold for SOAP?

A: One of the beauties of the SOAP model is its ability to be tailored to meet the specific needs of communities globally. I plan to expand SOAP in the coming months and years by building new partnerships (with communities and hotels) and expanding our regions of impact. SOAP has recently launched a new effort to integrate sexual and reproductive health programming and is also looking toward working with women to break into the global market with the sale of soaps. 

Q: What does the future hold for you?

A: Upon the completion of my undergraduate degree, I plan to serve in the US Army Reserve and work toward an MPH specializing in global health disparities. Through the experiences and knowledge offered to me by my academic and military training, I hope to continue to grow and improve SOAP. Once I complete my military service, or perhaps as a part of it, I hope to pursue an MD and dedicate my career to global health.

Keep up with SOAP by following them on Facebook.

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