On our way to Southern Laos, we stopped in the country capitale, Vientiane. On the recommandation of a French friend, we contacted a social entrepreneur based in the city. We had the great chance to meet up with Mac Maness, and his wife La, on the very day we arrived in Vientiane. And what a welcoming surprise!
Mac is an American expat in his fifties who has been working in Laos for couple of years already. After experiencing NGO work with Abundant Water, Mac realized that fighting poverty required a holistic approach, both economic and educational. What can be done with so few resources?
Mac noticed that one of the major sanitation issues in Laos was the lack of hygiene practices among poor communities, and mainly because rural people do not have access to soap. Yet, all ingredients of soap can be locally sourced in Laos. Mac and La started making their own soaps, and soon were able to train other local women to do so.
Their aims were three-fold: 1. Share good practices to reduce diseases related to unhygienic environment ; 2. provide business tools to women who wants to generate new incomes ; 3. empower women to take more responsibilities in their village committees.
By training women how to make and sell soap, Mac and La actually gave them great opportunities to increase their daily incomes and thus, their social status. Besides, their trainings had a multiplying effect as the trainees started teaching other women how to make soap. « This is why I wanted to work with women, said Mac. Women would share their knowledge while men would keep it for themselves and try to make the most profit out of it ».
Soap4Life soaps do not compete with the very cheap, but chemical, Malaysian or Chinese soaps. However a one-dollar soap-bar sold allows Mac and La to fund more trainings for Lao women. We tested it, and we loved it !
To order Soap4Life soaps, or support the initiative, go on : http://soap4life.weebly.com