There are 1 in 5 people that live without clean water, and 5 percent live without adequate sanitation. It’s too often the case in Haiti where a worldly offering sets off a scramble. It’s not for free food or medicine, but soap. Precious here, the handouts would’ve been trash in the US if not for Shawn Seipler.
The mission to Haiti was born almost a year ago, when Seipler and his colleague Paul Till were salesman sporting six-figure salaries. They got to wondering about those little bars of hotel sap, which most of us use just once. There are 4.6 million hotel rooms across the United States. Seipler estimates that 1.5 million bars of soap are hitting American landfills each day. A number so staggering it inspired Seipler and Till to quit their jobs and launch a non-profit called Clean the World.
They collect soap from US hotels, use restaurant steamers to remove impurities and repackage the bars for shipment. “Yes, it’s about recycling, “Seipler said. “It’s about preventing landfill waste…but it’s also about taking those items…and handing them to people who are dying because they don’t have soap.” In Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, disease spreads easily. Garbage clogs gutters, fills rivers and seems to suffocate life. Worldwide, 2 million people die every year from diarrhea, often caused by poor sanitation. Most are under the age of five, 8,000 children in Haiti alone. Studies suggest simple hand washing could cut those deaths by up to 30 percent.
In market in Cap-Haitien, a woman sells sop for a little less than a dollar a bar, which doesn’t sound like much, but you have to consider that ¾’s of Haiti’s population lives on less than $2 per day.
So far, Clean the World has distributed 60,000 bars.