Two Airdrie residents have been working hard to help provide hygiene items to people in need through Disaster Aid Canada’s Soap For Hope program – both locally and abroad. Shelley Adam and Michelle Edgar have teamed up to work with other organizations in the Airdrie and Calgary area to reuse things like soap, shampoo and toothpaste.
“This is just something that makes so much sense,” Edgar said. “It’s such a basic need, and if you don’t have access to this stuff every day to help you feel better and to boost your self-esteem, it’s miserable.”
According to Edgar, WestJet’s flight crew was on board with the project immediately and started collecting hotel hygiene products to donate to Soap For Hope YYC – who would wash and dry each item and give them to families or individuals in need. In the past month alone, Soap For Hope YYC gave 200 hygiene kits to the Airdrie Food Bank for redistribution.
“Now, we have a hotel program where they pay us to be in the program, and we use that money to cover our operating costs so that all our donations can stay as donations,” Edgar said. “We’re helping to save landfills from the waste from these used hygiene products. In Canada alone, there’s more than 18,000 pounds of hotel hygiene dumped daily into our landfills. We’re doing our small part to decrease that amount, turn it around, and help people in need.”
Through their 14 partners, which include food banks, women’s shelters, North Rocky View Community Links and more, Soap For Hope YYC ensures everyone has access to basic hygiene. In May, they will be taking their program on the road with a humanitarian aid trip to Nepal to provide much-needed support to a village there.
“People are still so desperately struggling after the earthquake two years ago,” Edgar said.
“People think they got money and help so things are getting better, and (they) are just forgotten about. This is what happens after any disaster, anywhere – but it takes time to rebuild, and many of these villages were already destitute.”
To help in Nepal, Soap For Hope YYC will be adopting a village of 25 families – home to 74 children. According to Adam, the village struggles with water-borne illness and is small enough for them to “really make a difference.” Each family will receive a water filtration kit, as well as clothes made by volunteers in Alberta.
“We won’t be bringing hygiene kits with us, though – we will be buying them there,” Adam said. “This is a village with a low literacy rate, and if we take items we use, they won’t be familiar and the residents won’t use them. This also helps us support their local economy.”
Since the earthquake in April 2015, tourism to Nepal has dropped significantly – dramatically impacting the economy there, Adam said. In some areas, the cost of living has increased by up to 20 per cent.
“The poorest people are suffering the most,” Adam said. “A lot of these people already had nothing, and while the people who were directly affected by the earthquake did get some help, the people who weren’t affected are still impacted by the economy, and have seen no support.”
Soap For Hope YYC will be making several other stops in Nepal to distribute hygiene products, including women’s clinics and organizations to support young mothers and victims of sexual slavery. To make a difference, they will need funding – and they are still raising money to help pay for the expenses of this humanitarian aid trip.
“We will be paying for our flights and accommodations personally, so we are doing some fundraising to cover that, as well as raising money to help the people in the places where we are going,” Edgar said. “We are planning to leave the first week in May, so we’re still trying to get our funding together.”
From the drop-down menu at disasteraid.ca, click donate to Soap For Hope YYC, or visit their Airdrie location at 205-304 Main Street S.E. on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday afternoons.
There will be a number of events happening throughout Airdrie to help raise funds, including a bottle drive and trivia night at BabyTooth Bambino’s Neighbourhood Pub April 20.