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How Soap Company Hand in Hand Is Combatting Water-Related Illnesses in Children

Photos: Courtesy of Hand in Hand Soap
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Zofia Wolicki

Chief Operating Officer, Hand in Hand

With almost 3 million bars of soap donated, Hand in Hand found a simple solution to fight back against water-related illnesses in children.

In 2011, married couple Courtney Apple and Bill Glaab read an article with an alarming statistic: 5 million children die each year from water-related illnesses. With access to soap and hygiene education, Apple and Glaab learned these childhood deaths could be cut in half.

Soon after, they founded a sustainable soap company that donates a bar of soap for every bar sold. Today, with an array of products, distribution through the nation’s top retailers, and partnerships with two notable non-profits, Hand in Hand has donated approximately 3 million bars of soap to date.

With their first partnership in Haiti, through the non-profit child advocacy group My Neighbor’s Children, Hand in Hand donated approximately 1.6 million bars of soap to children across orphanages, schools, clinics, hospitals, and communities. In 2013, they also started a clean water program, installing and repairing wells that provide thousands of people with clean water every day.

“It is a fundamental right for every person in the world to have clean water,” said William Lowry, founder and executive director of My Neighbor’s Children. “Our partnership with Hand in Hand allows us to deliver clean water and soap to communities that desperately need it.”

Spanning the globe

In 2018, Hand in Hand expanded its donations to Cambodia with Eco-Soap Bank, a non-profit started by Samir Lakhani, a 2017 CNN Heroes Award recipient. Lakhani recognized a need to save wasted hotel soaps from landfills and reuse them for a greater good. Employing and empowering women, Eco-Soap Bank provides upcycled soaps and hygiene education to schools, hospitals, and villages across the globe.

Students at a Cambodian school sit excitedly with their repurposed bar soaps.

These values of sanitation and sustainability aligned with Hand in Hand’s mission, making their partnership a perfect match. Together, they’ve distributed over 1.3 million bars of soap to children at 943 schools in four Cambodian provinces.

“Eco-Soap Bank was always looking for partners that shared our values for generative and sustainable change in the developing world, and Hand in Hand encompasses precisely that principle,” Lakhani said. “We were looking for someone who would help us empower women in the developing world but also supply essential, life-saving soap to children that needed it. We are so proud to be working hand in hand with Hand in Hand.”

A greener Earth

Apple and Glaab didn’t want to just create a business that gave back — they wanted one that was environmentally and ethically responsible, and one that made products from sustainable resources.

“Understanding our environmental impact, we set out from Day 1 to create a soap that was as eco-friendly as possible,” Glaab said. “We wanted to be proud of our soap and develop a product that was made with sustainable resources and harvested ethically.”

Children gather around Hand in Hand’s well in Onaville, Haiti to wash their hands.

“To have a product that is truly eco-friendly means more than just having natural ingredients. We have found many natural soaps use ingredients that ultimately come from intentionally cleared rainforests, which was something we wanted no part in. Every ingredient in our soap is not only natural, but it is harvested and grown in an environmentally friendly way.”

All Hand in Hand products are palm oil-free, vegan, cruelty-free, paraben-free, and petrochemical-free. Today, Hand in Hand offers four one-of-a-kind fragrances: Cactus Blossom, Lavender, Citrus Grove, and Sea Salt, and there is a Fragrance Free offering. Produced in the USA, products include bar soaps, body washes, sugar scrubs, and body lotions.

At a store near you

By expanding into retailers like Whole Foods, Hand in Hand has seen its social mission impact skyrocket. In just the past year, Hand in Hand was able to donate almost 2 million bars of soap through its non-profit partnerships with Eco-Soap Bank and My Neighbor’s Children. In comparison, it took over six years to reach the milestone of 1 million bars donated! As the brand continues to expand its retail presence, the best part is knowing that the life-saving impact of soap, clean water, and hygiene education will reach more children year after year.

Eco-Soap Bank founder, Samir Lakhani, distributes repurposed bars of soap to students in Cambodia. 
Hand in Hand team member, Holly La Porte, distributes repurposed bars of soap to students in Cambodia. 

“It’s important to me for people who buy Hand in Hand products to know that they’re having a tangible, measurable impact on the ground in countries like Cambodia,” Lakhani said. “They are providing jobs to women that ordinarily could not secure incomes, but also essential, life-saving soap for hundreds of thousands of children.”

With every Hand in Hand purchase, one bar of soap and one month of clean water is donated to a child in need. You can find Hand in Hand products nationwide at Whole Foods, and regionally at Wegmans, Fresh Thyme, Kroger, Target, and Ulta.

Go behind the scenes with Hand in Hand and Eco-Soap Bank on their recent trip to Cambodia where they met with the women who make upcycled soap and visited with children in schools to donate soaps and provide hygiene education.  

Zofia Wolicki, Chief Operating Officer, Hand in Hand, [email protected]

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