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Students in a lather over soap recycling

By Jane Deacon

SFU students have partnered with Mission Possible to create Soap for Hope.
Jane Deacon, 24 Hours

SFU students have partnered with Mission Possible to create Soap for Hope. Jane Deacon, 24 Hours

A program that recycles used soap is fostering unlikely connections between Simon Fraser University students and residents of the Downtown Eastside.

Soap for Hope — a partnership between a group of eight SFU Enactus students and Mission Possible Recycling — collects used bars of soap from local hotels. Through a student-developed process — backed by Health Canada — the bars are sanitized and repurposed into liquid soap from a site on East Hastings Street.

While providing part-time work to DTES residents hoping to gain employment skills, the students also seek to raise funds by selling the final product to local restaurants.

They have secured one pilot site and hope to expand exponentially to produce thousands of gallons of soap per month and employ a dozen people.

The program is a revamp of a previous initiative developed by MPR three years ago that languished when it lost its partner.

“I think Enactus really rescued this program,” said Brian Postlewait, executive director of Mission Possible, a work readiness program based in the DTES.

The students estimate they’ve invested close to 500 hours since developing the initiative in January — an amount driven home by their emotional response to producing the first two bottles of soap in September.

But the process has brought larger lessons than innovation and work skills, the students say, by opening their eyes to life on the DTES working alongside people who live there.

It’s come in small moments, said Hangue Kim. He recalled seeing a program participant pass along pizza the students had given him to people on the street outside of the facility — despite not having food for the night at the shelter where he lives.

“Working at Mission Possible Recycling and meeting the people there, it was totally changing for me,” said Madhev Menon. “I always thought of the DTES in a negative way. When you actually go and meet the people there, it’s totally different in terms of community.”

 

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