Amanda Griffin has been in Lee’s Summit for little over a week and she’s already planning set to sail in July.
A transplant from Dallas, Griffin is not returning to the Lone Star State, but will travel to the African country of Uganda with fellow soap maker Benjamin Aaron to help women learn the art of soap making and financial sustainability.
It’s the same sort of mission trip the two took last summer to Haiti where they took women from an impoverished village and taught them as well the art of making soap to make ends meet.
In fact it was the trip to Haiti that sprang the idea of the Lovin’ Soap Project, a not-for-profit organization conceived by Griffin and including Aaron, a life-long Lee’s Summit resident whose family owns Prairie Soap Company inside Summit Fair Shopping Center.
The Lovin’ Soap Project was officially incorporated as a non-profit in August of last year to teach soap making and business workshops to women in developing countries and help them start businesses.
“I started the Lovin’ Soap Project a year ago in January which was three years after (a massive) earthquake (in Haiti),” Griffin said June 17 from inside Prairie Soap Company’s location at 930-D N.W. Blue Parkway. The business also has a website – prairiesoapcompany.com – that the Aaron family launched years before opening a storefront in Summit Fair and has their products in place in stores throughout the metropolitan area. “I went there…and I quickly realized that you just can’t teach them soap making, you have to help them with the business part of that.”
The 10-day trip July 19-29 to Uganda is in conjunction with Project Lydia, a Lawrence, Kan.-based organization dedicated to empowering women in eastern Uganda.
“The head of the organization (Julie Pash) is going to help us out,” Aaron said. “She’s going to kind of put us up. They actually have an apartment there, but much like Haiti we just want to stay with the women. We want to absorb the culture as much as possible, so we’re going to go that route.”
Griffin said she met Aaron at a soap making conference in March of last year and after making inroads on their volunteer goals, asked Aaron if he would like to visit Haiti with her on a soap making mission. From there, a partnership was formed and the two have visited Haiti every two months since their inaugural trip last year.
“My strength is the actual teaching and technical stuff of it,” said Griffin, who has a background in marketing and will serve as a soapmaking instructor for public classes at Prairie Soap Company. “Benjamin has a business so I knew that he would be a great asset because having a business he would be able to offer his insight and things like that.”
Aaron said he was all aboard from the beginning and the latest trip to Uganda is another steppingstone for the Lovin’ Soap Project.
“You know what’s cool about the Uganda trip?” he said. “The local/global connection with Project Lydia. Project Lydia is a group of women on Lake Victoria near the Nile River in Uganda. They are from different villages – and there are a bunch of them – but (Pash) told me that she has eight women that would love how to make soap.”
As co-directors of the Lovin’ Soap Project, both Griffin and Aaron have felt tugs at their hearts to help others through the art and craft of soap making.
“A good friend once told me there is no such thing as an unselfish act,” Griffin said. “Selfishly, I like the way I feel when I do good things for others. You put out good, good things will happen in return.”
Added Aaron: “When we started Prairie Soap Company, once we got it to a sustainable point, I always wanted to do a local, regional and international kind of tiered help. This kind of fell in my hands. We’re blessed here (in Lee’s Summit) and I kind of want to pass that on. I’ve been making soap for a long time and that’s a skill I know how to do and I wanted to pass that along.”
For more information on the Lovin’ Soap Project or to donate to the not-for-profit’s cause, visit the website lovinsoapproject.org. The organization also has a facebook page at facebook.com/lovinsoap