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Soapmaking With Mon Refugees

The Mon women (photo courtesy of Dominika Florek)
The Mon women (photo courtesy of Dominika Florek)

Two weeks ago I had the privilege of teaching a group of Mon women how to make soap. A big thank-you goes out to Kristina Lakhiani who pulled the group together for the activity. At first I thought it would be a one-off affair for the refugees, but some really exciting long-term plans are in store for them and Kinder Soaps.

This group of highly motivated women are looking for ways to be financially independent while they are here in Malaysia. I was particularly moved because there were two young girls in the group–one aged 2, and the other about 14 months–about the same age as my own two kids. The thought that they were growing up in a country that wasn’t their own, with such an uncertain future was troubling.

Meet Little Dewi, the 14-month-old darling
Meet Little Dewi, the 14-month-old darling

So now we’re trying to find a way for the Mon women to make and sell soap in order to support themselves. Making the soap isn’t the tricky bit–it’s *marketing* the finished products that will be the real challenge. My intention is for them to be able to make soap all on their own, using recipes that I formulate for their use, then take them to market and all proceeds will go directly back to the community. Will they be marketed under Kinder Soaps? I don’t know yet. This is a totally new situation for me to be in, both on the personal and business fronts. My main concern is that they can generate a steady income from the fruits of their labour.

Glug glug glug...
Showing how to accurately measure the weight of ingredients (photo courtesy of Dominika Florek)
Blending oil with lye in a soup pot
Blending oil with lye in a soup pot (photo courtesy of Dominika Florek)

Have any of you had experience working with refugee communities in this manner? If you have any advice that could help getting this programme off the ground, I would greatly appreciate it. And so would the Mon women.

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