The power of soap

SHS students are inspired by a Burundian refugee to make soap to combat the virus


Innocent Havyarimana, a refugee from Burundi, is helping to combat the spread of COVID-19 through his soap-making business he created in Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp. His business has since become very important in fighting the virus for all of those in his community. 

“He started a project with soap for helping to not spread COVID-19…,” junior Claude Iranzi said. “He started with low prices, putting everything down so people can afford it.”

According to a BBC article, Havyarimana started the business in early 2015 while trying to move on from the traumatic events that led him to flee Burundi and go to Kenya. Not only did he lower the prices, he gave the disabled and elderly the soaps for free.

EL teacher Amy Peddie’s English as a New Language level 2 class read a BBC article about Havyarimana and his soap business, which gave Peddie the idea to create a project that would allow her students to also make soap. This project has proved to be a learning experience for the ENL 2 students, and also a way for them to turn learning into a fun activity. 

“We had gotten a lot of students from Africa this year and they all seemed to land in my ENL 2 class,” Peddie said. “And I feel like sometimes our students don’t always get to see themselves in what we read, and so we decided to read the article.”

Peddie’s students will each be creating their own soaps and will be able to personalize them with different exfoliants, dyes and decorations. They will also be creating advertisements for their own soaps. 

Peddie thinks that this project gives some of the newer ENL students a chance to connect to the work they are doing and make their learning more personal. 

Media specialist Tara Foor is helping Peddie with her project. Foor has helped to find funding and provide materials, and she thinks  this project will allow the students to use their skills and bring their learning to real situations.

“We are taking that concept and we are going to put it into practice,” Foor said. “They are kind of making the article come to life.”

Iranzi believes that this project is not only going to be enjoyable for the students but is also going to help them practice their language skills they have been learning. 

“I think the project is going to help us to get a little better and more comfortable with answering questions,” Iranzi said. “And if somebody asks a question, we don’t have to copy from Google. No, it has to come from our thoughts. And I think it is going to be fun. Really fun.”

Though it is always enjoyable for students to apply their learning in a fun way, Foor thinks that with everything the students have gone through this past school year, a fun activity is something that they really need.

“I think it’s something you don’t normally get to do,” Foor said. “And in the 2020-2021 school year, we need as much fun as we can get in the classroom.”