Sisters Taylor and Samantha Lane of Fairfax County, Virginia, visited the African country of Swaziland this summer on a hygiene mission.
As part of Samantha’s Girl Scout Gold Award project last year, both sisters traveled with Clean the World to the Dominican Republic to help distribute soap and teach the importance of hand-washing and good dental hygiene to over 1,500 kids in disadvantaged communities. During that visit, the sisters learned how a little idea could grow into something big. As they said on a recent call with Clean the World, “It is a big world with lots to fix, but if we take a small chunk, we can make a difference. Don’t be afraid to start small; it can compound infinitely.”
Here in their words is the story of the Lane sisters’ recent trip to Swaziland. They volunteered at Project Canaan, a land-development project supported by the UPS Foundation.
By Taylor and Samantha Lane
Our goal for volunteering in Swaziland was to bring all we learned with Clean the World in the Dominican Republic in 2015 to a new part of the world. After that life-changing experience, neither one of us wanted to stop spreading the word about the importance of hygiene.
In Swaziland, our mission was to bring Clean the World’s message of “hope through soap” as part of our effort to advance United Nations Sustainable Development Goal No. 3, which is to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. Swaziland is a country that faces many challenges. The country has the highest HIV rate in the world, leaving many children HIV positive and orphaned because their parents die from the virus.
Swaziland also has the highest rate of Tuberculosis in the world. The combination of being co-infected with TB and HIV, as is common in Swaziland, leaves people at a high risk of mortality. Providing basic education on the importance of hygiene, including hand washing, can help prevent the spread of disease.
Knowing that, we traveled to Swaziland to help provide this type of education. Through community outreach, we taught Swazis about the importance of hygiene. Swaziland, like several other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, is also grappling with one of the worst droughts in history. Consequently, many Swazis have been unable to farm to sustain themselves. Hunger is a very real problem in communities across Swaziland, with 69 percent of the population living below the poverty line and most depending on international food programs to survive. Because good nutrition is essential to good health, we also went out into various communities to provide and Clean the World hygiene kits.
Women and girls do not have equal rights under the law in Swaziland and are therefore often hardest hit in terms of their access to food and medicine. Our whole experience in Swaziland was eye-opening regarding the suffering that exists and the basic inequalities that make life even harder for women and girls. That said, we both came away empowered in that we were able to engage, albeit in little ways when compared to the magnitude of the problems, to try to show that girls like us can help change the world for the better.
Clean the World was our inspiration for spreading the word about the power of soap to bring hope.
Taylor Lane graduated from George C. Marshall High School in Falls Church, Virginia, this June and is headed to Dartmouth College this fall. Samantha Lane is a junior at James Madison High School in Vienna, Virginia.