Soap Cycling's Fall 2018 intern team came together to represent our cause at the HKU campus on Thursday, November 8th. Michelle Kam, a 2nd-year exchange student from the University of California-Riverside, gives some insight into her experience as a Soap Cycling intern and a project she stepped up to manage: the HKU Service Fair.
Joining a campus-wide exhibition at my adopted school, HKU, with over 30 other service organisations represented, the Soap Cycling team had to make a big splash to get interest from the attendees. Having started our Soap Cycling internship in September, all of us interns had managed and run several large-scale volunteer events by this point in the semester. The preparation for this event started with four interns waking up at seven (a tall task for undergraduates). A McDonald's breakfast at eight. Arrived at the Soap Cycling warehouse by nine. Packed up and in the GoGoVan by ten, arrived at the HKU campus by half-past ten. All set up by eleven, ready to roll at twelve.
The Fall 2018 Soap Cycling intern team consists of 21 students hailing from 7 different countries (HK, US, UK, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Slovakia, Cambodia, Austria). Over the past two months, this diverse group bonded and worked together to fulfil Soap Cycling's mission: recruiting and managing over 1,000 volunteers, processing and distributing tons of upcycled hotel soap and amenity bottles to those in need, managing a group of over 25 elderly, special needs, and homeless workers as part of Soap Cycling's MEY 美 social employment program.
With this strong foundation of teamwork, we took Soap Cycling back to where it all began: The University of Hong Kong. With stacks of pamphlets, 15,000 packets of hand sanitizers, and a high-five from our founder David Bishop, eleven of us got to work. Armed with our hand sanitizers and pamphlets, we approached people of all ages and backgrounds. Together, we formed a well-oiled machine. Some handed out hand sanitizers to get people to stop and look up at our booth. Others distributed flyers and pamphlets, explaining what we do as an organization. Some went to other booths to “network” with other student service organisations, several of whom consistently take our soap with them on their volunteering trips. Others stayed back to demonstrate the soap recycling process and manage a sign-up sheet. Checking in and out, three to four at a time, we were able to cover every task required.
Once on-site, the action at the fair kept us on our toes. Waves of passersby constantly came over to ask us to explain our operations more in-depth. Some students questioned why we were even doing what we were doing. Nonetheless, we held our ground, pitching in and adding our own experiences as interns to paint a fuller picture of what Soap Cycling achieves with meagre resources.
As one of the interns in charge of this event, I knew that organizing the manpower and resources needed was going to be a challenge. This internship has been exactly how it was advertised; it has been a true learning experience. Things did not always go as planned. Buildings we needed access to were locked. Banners could not be retrieved. Materials could not be bought. Nevertheless, we utilised the resilience and resourcefulness learned as interns at Soap Cycling
At five in the evening, the fair wrapped had up. In all, over 30 HKU students had signed up for a chance to volunteer, intern, and join events to make an impact. By six, three interns made the trip back to the Soap Cycling warehouse, bringing everything full circle.