If you were to take a peek in most homes on the West Shore, chances are pretty good that you’d probably find a half-full bottle of shampoo or one of those little hotel bottles of lotion collecting dust somewhere. Even more of those parital little bottles are thrown away in the hotel industry each day.
To help fulful the hygiene needs of communities locally and globally, Soap for Hope – a program through Disaster Aid Canada – collects gently used or unused soap and hygiene products that would otherwise be discarded from the hotel industry and members of the public.
“We always say ‘nobody should have to hope for soap,’” noted C. Anne McIntyre, the executive director of Disaster Aid Canada. “The more I started talking with (local shelters) the more I found they didn’t really have it in their budgets for hygiene products.”
The program initally supplied five Victoria-based shelters and has quickly grown to 30 across Vancouver Island. Roughly 40 hotels on the Island donate products. But the need greatly outweighs supplies. “In Victoria the demand is 8,500 kits a month alone … and that’s not including families,” she said. “We do the best we can.”
Last year volunteers processed 75,000 bars of soap and 45,000 other hygene products. While McIntyre estimated roughly one-third of what they receive was new, the rest is sterlized and topped up with the same brand of product. “We repurpose them in our warehouse and create hygene kits,” she explained. Volunteers get together on Mondays and Wednesdays from 9:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. every week to process donations and one night a month they build kits. Every kit includes a bar of soap and a bottle each of shampoo, conditioner, body wash and lotion.
While most of the kits go to shower programs for adults, the Pacific Centre Family Services Association in Colwood recieves about 50 kits a month and is the only organization supplied with these kits that serves children.
But the program isn’t just about basic hygiene needs. It helps boost recipients’ self-esteem and keep them positive. As McIntyre noted, unless someone feels clean it’s hard to get a job, interact with society or even feel good about one’s self. Sometimes a bar of soap is more than just a means of getting clean. For many, it can be a symbol of hope.
“It’s also a great recycling program,” she added. “Last year I think we saved 215,000 bottles from the garbage.” Used hotel-sized bottles that still have product left in them cannot be recycled until they are cleaned and many find their way into the trash. Any bottles the program can’t use are washed and recycled properly so they don’t end up in the landfill. The program also accepts empty full-sized bottles that can be refilled for those that need them.
“It’s amazing to me how much need there is,” McIntyre said, adding “it doesn’t take a lot of money … $25 a month will keep five people clean with everything they need.”
So with spring in the air, McIntyre is encouraging West Shore residents to go through their bathrooms and donate any products that won’t be used. “Anything in the bathroom you can’t use any more we’ll take.”
The organization also accepts bedding and towels are always a welcomed item. McIntyre noted she recently recieved 40 duvets from a hotel. She loaded them straight into her truck and took them over to Our Place. It was perfect timining as the society had just put out a call for blankets.
Items can be donated at Pacific Centre Family Services Associaiton, 345 Wale Rd., and now at the Goldstream News Gazette’s office in Langford, 205-774 Goldstream Ave. To volunteer or for more information email firstname.lastname@example.org. To make a financial donation, go to canadahelps.org and search for Disaster Aid Canada.