Surprise Soaps: Starting small, with a big impact
Sometimes small steps - taken by the smallest people - can make a huge difference. We're hoping that's exactly what happens with our Surprise Soap project in Kenya.
Surprise Soaps are small, clear soaps for children with a plastic toy visible inside. The more children wash their hands, the quicker they're rewarded with the toy. By washing their hands more often, children who use the soaps are helping to make their communities healthier.
Handwashing is known to be one of the best - and most cost-effective - ways to prevent disease transmission. In disaster- and conflict-affected settings where people have been forced to flee or shelter in dirty conditions, people are especially vulnerable to death and illness caused by poor hygiene. Better hygiene can help change that.
Field Ready has brought Surprise Soaps to schools in the Mt. Elgon district, a conflict-affected area of Kenya near the Ugandan border. The soaps are completely locally made - which makes them better, faster and cheaper than soaps that are made far away and must be shipped great distances.
The toys embedded in the soaps have been 3D-printed by our partner Kijenzi in Kisumu. The first batch of soaps have been made by Beyond Soaps, a woman-owned beauty-products company in Kisumu. Additional batches are also being made the women's group "Mama Mboga," a Mt. Elgon group that has been trained and supported by Field Ready.
The soaps will be distributed to children in pre-school to third grade at eight schools in the region: Chemuses RC, Kaamaata SA, Kimaswa SA, Cheptais SA, Peresten ACK, Cheptais SDA, Kipsis SA and Kiptii SA. With the help of the the Community Development & Sustainability organization in Mt. Elgon, the program aims to get the soaps to nearly 2,700 students at the schools. The initial distribution will be to 550 children. The soap has to be made in small batches right now, said Angela Mangi, a Field Ready manufacturing engineer based in Kenya.
And if the smallest community members pick up frequent handwashing, there's a good chance their behavior will rub off on the rest of the community - in one way or another.
We know that kids keep their hands cleaner with Surprise Soaps, and their use eliminates the need for labor-intensive hygiene promotion. How do we know? In a 2019 research project with our partners Save the Children and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, we tested children's use of the Surprise Soaps in an Iraqi refugee camp.
Findings from that project showed that children washed their hands four times as often with the Surprise Soaps as they did with traditional soap. Their clean behavior often spread to family members - and when that happened diseases such as cholera and pneumonia, which spread easily in crowded refugee camps, didn't.
It's a simple recipe: Surprise Soaps + children = more handwashing; more handwashing = fewer diseases. For both the children themselves and their families, friends and neighbors.
We'll keep you updated on the program and its progress!