On the third day of the course, August 27th, the students were divided into two groups. One group headed to the kitchen to learn how to make soap, while the other group remained in the lobby to grasp the art of packaging the soap created the previous day. Mr. and Mrs. Cakra's daughter, Yi-Xuan, joined in to lend her expertise.

This seemingly simple task held profound significance. The women from the villages, largely unaccustomed to even basic tools like scissors, were given a piece of paper to start practicing their scissor skills. The delicate plastic wrap they were using adhered tightly once cut, prompting the trainees to follow a meticulous process of spreading it out and cutting it into precise rectangles before wrapping it around the soap. Each step required a great deal of patience to ensure the soap looked immaculate and well-presented.

Meanwhile, in the kitchen, Mrs. Cakra guided the trainees through the steps they had learned the day before, instilling a sense of confidence and understanding. The trainees, understandably nervous, glanced at their notes repeatedly while diligently following the instructions.

August 28th marked the fourth day of the course, and a new ingredient was introduced: saffron powder. The teacher explained that saffron not only added color but also had skin-healing properties, leaving the skin smoother. Eager to experiment, the trainees quickly produced a substantial quantity of saffron-infused soap.

Trainees learned to package soap made the previous day. Mr. And Mrs. Cakra’s daughter, Yi-Xuan (center), joined to assist in the teaching. (Photo by Huang Hui-Wan; Lumbini, Nepal; 2023/8/27)

After allowing the soap to cool and setting it aside, the teacher skillfully shaved the finished product to achieve a smooth and aesthetically pleasing surface. The trainees then practiced their packaging skills and tackled the challenge of wrapping the thin and easily rollable plastic wrap. They measured the required width with their fingers and secured the plastic wrap to the table. They learned from their initial mistakes and became more proficient than the previous day.

August 29th, the fifth day of the course, brought a new lesson: cold soap-making. While the ingredients for cold soap were largely similar to those for hot soap, the crucial difference lay in the absence of a soap base. Instead, sodium hydroxide, a synthetic chemical that could cause burns if touched directly, needed to be added – this required the use of gloves.

The process of making cold soap began by diluting the sodium hydroxide with water. Then the trainees heated the oil while stirring continuously before adding the remaining ingredients. Unlike hot soap, cold soap requires a month of curing before it can be used.

Shakya Subani joined the trainees in the kitchen, encouraging them to collect neem tree leaves from their homes. These trees were abundant and, with careful preparation, could yield valuable resources—much like the potential hidden within the Lumbini women. The satisfaction of witnessing the trainees' gradual progress filled everyone with joy and hope. The aim was clear: to equip the trainees with valuable skills that would enable them to become self-reliant and transform their lives.

In the spirit of a Jing Si Aphorism that wisely states, “Over time, we can build great character, achieve great success, and cultivate great virtue,” the course continued to empower these women with new-found knowledge and opportunities for a brighter future.

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Story by Yang Wen-Ting, Hsieh Chien-Yi, Wu Hsiu-Ling, Huang Hu-Wan, and Liao Yuet-Hung