Seeing the Need, Taking the Lead: The Soap Drive Initiative

The world as we know it changed forever from December 2019 when the novel COVID-19 virus was first discovered in China. The modus operandi of the world immediately came to a halt and a new approach to life had to be invented in other for mankind to do what it knows best, survive. And the best way identified by world governing bodies to halt the rapid spread was a temporary lockdown that lasted over three months.

One reality that whether liked or not must be confronted is the economic disruption that the lockdown has caused. A good number of organizations could not cope with incurring expenses and not having incomes, and then the sinking began.

Nigeria, specifically, which is our geographic location and as such our main focus, saw an oil price drop to a record low as it was sold for under $20 per barrel, the worst in the past 15 years. Making it thus difficult for the federal government to raise funds, and to add salt to the injury importation and exportation was put on hold, even making it more difficult for the product to be sold. With oil being our main source of income, there was indeed going to be a problem.

Beyond the impact on the federal government, the private sector also couldn’t keep paying while they couldn’t be productive, and the retrenchment commenced, and for others, they didn’t pay their staff anymore. People now had to live on their savings, and for those who didn’t have, oh well… But the real unasked question remained, which will kill people more? The virus? Or hunger? The government responded to this question by introducing palliative measures which helped to some extent solve the hunger part.

Understanding the Need

Now, to the virus part. How will people who haven’t met their basic physiological needs think of higher needs such as safety? This is where we at South Saharan Social Development Organization come in. Having identified a gap, especially among some identified vulnerable households in Enugu, Nigeria, we took the lead by creating the soap drive initiative. The soap drive came off a burning desire to help families and households keep in line with world accepted safety measures as recommended by W.H.O to wash hands regularly as this helps curb the possibility of the virus getting into the human system.

The soap drive is an initiative aimed at getting to various parts of Enugu state while creating awareness on COVID-19 as well as making provisions available for families that cannot afford soap. Albeit small, the lack is a reality, thus helping them free up funds that can be channeled to other areas. In the words of the organization’s Program Manager, Udochukwu Egwim. “Our goal is to help people cultivate healthy practices that would in the long run result in habits that are sustainable even beyond the pandemic.”

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ground Covered, Impact Made

With this initiative, we have successfully distributed 10,000 soap bars to over 1400 households in Enugu, with Enugu South, Nkanu West, and Nkanu East LGAs being key target areas. This we successfully achieved by tapping into our huge network of volunteers spread out all across the state. At this point, it is important to note that it has been proven scientifically and also backed up psychologically that it takes 21 days to cultivate a habit. With this in mind, each household was given 6 tablets of soap with the intention to see them consistently wash their hands for over a month and hence cultivate the habit.

The soap drive also afforded a unique opportunity to educate the beneficiaries on the importance of wash and personal hygiene, health education, as well as the recommended W.H.O hand washing procedure, which included a seven-step and 20 seconds procedure. Beyond hygiene, it was also a time to equip the beneficiaries with the right information on COVID-19, which includes understanding the pandemic and necessary safety measures.

“You could literally see their faces come alive when they were presented with the soaps, and they were more than willing to learn more on how to protect their families from the pandemic.” – Okereke Grace, one of the volunteers said.

The soap drive spanned the first two weeks in May and members of the public equally bought in the idea as they willingly contributed soaps to the endeavor. Showing that as a people we can be stronger together once we set our hearts on a course.