It has been almost 18 months since Tahoe native John Cefalu traveled to Africa on a mission to aid Kenyan youth. He called it the trip of a lifetime. When in fact, his work had just begun.
Cefalu, an 18-year-old South Tahoe High School graduate, is starting a company that gives a bar of soap to an orphanage in Kenya for each bar sold in the states. He thought of the idea after returning from his life-changing experience in 2012.
“It really shaped who I’ve become,” he said.
Health 2 Humanity, as the soap company is called, was founded by Cefalu and two of his college buddies, Max Wysong and Daniel Cruz. It started in September and has been operating out of Cefalu’s dorm room in Orange, Calif.
So far, the trio has been making each bar of soap by hand. It’s a small and time-consuming business, but Cefalu doesn’t expect it to be for long.
He plans on manufacturing the soap on a larger scale soon, as well as offer jobs to Kenyans in need.
Eventually, the idea is to teach business and marketing to 18-year-old Kenyans who need a job after exiting the orphanages, Cefalu said. They would be taught to make the soap, which would be given to the African shelters and sold throughout the community.
“Soap is a big problem over there,” he said. “It’s one of the cheapest things, but it’s hard for the orphanages to get, specifically. Soap is something that would be great to take off their minds.”
Brian Williams of Think Kindness, the Reno-based organization partnered with H2H, said an orphanage in Kenya could spend up to $75 on soap for its youth. Putting it into context, $75 could feed and educate a child for about three to four months.
“I think what this will be able to provide is to ease that burden off the orphanage,” he said.
The soap is made of natural ingredients, including shea butter, olive oil, coconut oil and distilled water, Cefalu said. It could help provide sanitation to an area in need.
“I noticed a general lack of cleanliness and a lack of hygiene,” he said, “and that’s something they should have.”
One of the most important things to Cefalu, as he sets up a business with Kenya residents, is to make sure they in fact wanted to be involved, he said. But so far, he’s heard nothing but positive feedback.
He will get an even better idea of people’s reactions, however, when he visits the region in late May, he said. At that point, Cefalu and his H2H cofounders plan on teaching certain Kenyans about making and selling their soap.
“This is kind of a dream job for me,” he said, “just traveling around and helping people.”
Health 2 Humanity soap can be purchased at Gaia-Licious in South Lake Tahoe. Other information can be found at www.health2humanity.org when the website launches in about a week, Cefalu said.