Last night, CSLEPS announced and recognized the 2015-16 Role Model Leader. A blurb from his organization’s website perfectly describes this year’s recipient: “From Africa to Atlanta with nothing but a dream and tenacity, Derreck Kayongo beat the odds, earned an education, and has served in leadership roles around the world since 1994.”
A former child refugee of the Ugandan civil war, Derreck Kayongo eventually made his way to America. Never forgetting the images of his childhood and the ongoing suffering of the people of his native land, he unexpectedly discovered a unique solution for an incredible need when he first visited an American hotel.
“I was amazed that you have three different kinds of soap,” he said during his talk at NC State’s Goodnight Scholars Presents Lecture Series. “There was face soap, hand soap and body soap. They are all the same!”
Students laughed and listened attentively as Kayongo shared his story and challenged them to find their place in service and business. His attention to the soap was reasonable, since his father was a soap-maker in Uganda and Kenya.
Kayongo said he was disturbed to learn that used soap bars, left behind by hotel guests, were thrown away. In fact, hotels in the U.S. throw away over 800 million bars of soap annually.
“I am the child that made soap with my father, then became the child that had no soap as a refugee,” said Kayongo, a 2011 CNN Hero. “Then I was the child that was blessed enough to be in a country that throws away soap. What do you do with that, I thought? I thought ‘we can recycle it’. So I embarked on recycling the soap.”
In 2009, he founded the Global Soap Project, a non-profit organization that recycles partially used hotel soap. The soap is then shipped to refugee camps in over 30 countries.
Kayongo asked students to consider a central question in unlocking their ability to do big things. “What events in your life can you use to inspire hope in the world?”
Each year, campus organizations and departments having invited speakers, activists and leaders to campus who embody the qualities of a Role Model Leader, are encouraged to nominate those individuals for honor. Kayongo was nominated by The Goodnight Scholars program and becomes the 29th recipient of the award.
“To receive an honor like this is special to me,” he said. “It means you are now a part of my story. I am appreciative because it connects me to the things each of you will do to change the world.”
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