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Refugee urges SLCC graduates to notice opportunities
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

It all began with an excessive supply of soap in the first U.S. motel room Ugandan refugee Derreck Kayongo stayed in.

There was soap for his hands, soap for his face, soap for his body, keynote speaker Kayongo told thousands of Salt Lake Community College graduates, their families and friends at commencement Thursday evening.

When Kayongo confessed to "stealing" the soaps the maids brought each day, the American concierge "burst out laughing."

" 'See these Americans over here, they all steal soap, so don't worry about it,' " the concierge told a stunned Kayongo.

Years later, Kayongo would use that memory to create a nongovernmental organization, Global Soap Project, which recycles lightly used hotel soap and puts it into the hands of disaster victims and poor women and children throughout the world.

On Thursday, Kayongo urged graduates to always pay attention to the circumstances around them. "They hold the key to your true calling in life," he said.

Two million children die each year from bacteria-born illnesses, and many can be saved with a simple bar of soap, he said.

Global Soap Project, which has soapmaking factories in Atlanta and Hong Kong, produces 30,000 bars of soap a week and has donated 1 million bars in 23 countries.

Kayongo was recognized as a 2011 CNN Hero.

Salt Lake Community College graduated one of its largest classes in school history, 4,053 students hailing from 32 states and 75 countries. More than half, 55 percent, were women.

kmoulton@sltrib.com

Twitter: @KristenMoulton

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