Stories from the Field: Meet Sophie
Meet Sophie, a mother of three, a wife, and now a skilled soap maker in Kizuka, Burundi, Africa. Sophie worked exclusively as a farmer until she heard about a new soap association, Tugirishaka, meaning “let us have courage”, in her community and decided to join. The association currently has 7 members.
Working in the Soap Shop
While she continues to work as a farmer, the soap shop gives Sophie a unique opportunity to earn additional income for her family. Many families in Kizuka farm for themselves and are only able to sell a small portion of their crops, so a second source of income can have a significant impact.
In the soap shop, Sophie makes two types of soap; blue soap and a white and blue flecked soap. The blue soaps are purchased by Pacha Soap Co. and donated to local schools, where soap clubs use them to teach students about hygiene and W.A.S.H. initiatives. Sophie’s children attend one of the schools that receive the blue soaps.
“[interpreter] She says yes this soap is making good things at schools, she says for example her kids, her children, when they go to school…they wash their hands before going back to classroom and write down something. So she says that these things about soap are good things for her children in school.”
The white and blue flecked soaps Sophie crafts are not used in the schools, and are, instead, sold at market. Both types of soap bring income to Sophie and help to improve the hygiene and overall health of the community, creating happier and more prosperous people.
Sophie regularly works in the soap shop and says the business has been very successful in the community. The workers stick together and communicate about market opportunities to ensure everyone earns a fair income. The team experienced a small set back when the machine they use to crush palm nuts – which produces the oil for the soap base – broke down. But they were able to purchase a new one with an interest-free loan from Imagine Burundi (a Burundian non-profit and Pacha’s local partner). They are currently working on paying off the loan, but business has not slowed down.
Sophie and her husband have used the money she has earned in the soap shop to improve their home by adding a new roof and multiple rooms. They previously rented a home, but now own their own property, which brings them a sense of peace. She hopes to eventually own her own chickens and goats to continue to provide for her family.
The soap shops set up by Imagine Burundi and Pacha Soap Co. empower men and women in the community. Pacha contributes the initial capital to set up the shop, provides soap making expertise as well as an initial market by buying blue soap for schools; Imagine Burundi provides local expertise, coordinates the project delivery and provides the soap shops with ongoing support. This model provides the soap shop members with skills and opportunities to earn a new steady income and the potential to build economic freedom.
Olina Hakizimana, Imagine Burundi’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WaSH) program manager sums it up best: “[interpreter] When I see the Soap team at Kizuka today, a lot of changes has happens since 2016 where Imagine and Pacha Soap establish the soap shop. The community was poor, but they have been able to lift themselves up, mainly because of they today have a meaningful job and income. To have jobs, access to water and soap is truly a blessing. The soap team have become leaders in the community, they are respected, and they work with dignity serving the community with understanding of correct sanitation and hygiene. The team also help disable people given them soap and money to buy medicine if needed. And the team produce soap to 21 schools in the Province of Rumonge as a part of the Pacha Soap school soap program. The soap team have really achieved much in short time. It is like a fairytale.”