Author: Salesian Missions

Publication Date: May 09, 2022

Soap for Better Health

Good health requires good nutrition. It also relies on basic hygiene—most especially, handwashing—which is a practice that can be difficult for impoverished children and families to follow. Thanks to our annual Loaves and Fishes campaign, generous donors like you are delivering the gift of better health, one bar of soap at a time.

“Here in the United States, we can easily take soap for granted,” says Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions. “But in developing countries around the world, it can be nearly impossible for people to access it. Either it’s too expensive or, in rural areas especially, it’s just not available.”

Even when soap is available, many households reserve it for laundry and bathing, but not handwashing—often because of inadequate education about its importance.  As a result, nearly 1.6 million people die each year from preventable intestinal illnesses such as typhoid and cholera. In many lower-income countries, these diseases rank as the leading cause of death among children.

“Our Salesian missionaries on the ground see the impacts of poor hygiene almost every day,” says Fr. Gus. “Because of the relationship between handwashing and food, so many children who receive vital nutritional assistance still get sick; either their hands aren’t clean when they eat, or the hands of the people who prepare the food aren’t. Sometimes it’s both. This is why we’re grateful to work with partners such as Rise Against Hunger, who help us address this pressing issue in so many impoverished communities where we serve.”

When possible, Rise Against Hunger includes soap in their shipments of food aid to Salesian-run programs around the world, including the Talita Kumi Foundation for the Development and Education of Indigenous Women in Guatemala.

At Talita Kumi, more than 1,300 students attend school for free each day. Nearly half of them also benefit from daily meals and housing at one of four dormitories on campus. Along with soap, these boarding students received related training and education in personal hygiene, health and nutrition.

Salesian missionaries provide ongoing follow-up to assess changes in their students’ attitudes, behaviors and practices around hygiene. “Missionaries report that students learn important lessons in hygiene related to cooking, agriculture and daily activities in the boarding school,” says Fr. Gus.

One such student, Deysi illustrates this: “My parents supported me to come study at Talita Kumi because everything is free for us and that helps us a lot,” she says. “Here, they give me soap that smells very good. In addition, they teach us that one should be clean to have good health. They teach us that we should wash our hands if we are going to eat or prepare food, in order to not contaminate the food or fill us with bacteria. Then I know that if I clean my hands, I won’t be sick a lot. When I return to my home, I am going to teach this to my little siblings.”

Thanks to our many generous friends, who help fund the shipping costs of these donated meals and soap through our annual Loaves and Fishes appeal, students like Deysi can remain healthy, stay in school, and continue to build the foundations for brighter futures.

Our mission can deliver $14 worth of food, soap and other beneficial supplies for every $1 you donate. Make our annual Loaves and Fishes campaign your mission today!

Learn more about our work in Guatemala.

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