Sydney Kamen, 17, of Washington, D.C., a junior at Georgetown Day School, is developing a nonprofit initiative that will encourage luxury hotels in Southeast Asia to donate discarded bars of soap for recycling and distribution to people living in poverty. Sydney has been active in community service through her school and synagogue for many years, and during that time has acquired a strong interest in health and poverty issues. She recently has been volunteering weekly with an organization that educates inner-city youth about the prevention of HIV and AIDS.
For the past two summers, Sydney also has traveled to Thailand, Laos and Myanmar to volunteer in remote villages and learn about the needs and concerns of the impoverished people living there. She discovered that a major problem is the lack of sanitation and the resulting ease with which diseases can spread. To address this issue, Sydney is working on what she calls her "SOAP (So Others Are Protected) Initiative." It involves the collection of used, discarded soap from luxury hotels in Southeast Asia so that it can be cleaned, melted and reshaped into new bars of soap for people in villages and refugee camps who cannot afford it. It also involves the development of a volunteer network to teach villagers "how improved cleanliness can reduce illness and infections in places where water is not clean or safe," said Sydney.