The teacher explained that the first step in making cold soap was to dilute sodium hydroxide with water and then heat the oil while stirring continuously. (Photo by Huang Hui-Wan; Lumbini, Nepal; 2023/8/29)

As they entered the sixth day of the handmade soap course on August 29th, the trainees’ journey into the art of handmade soap had reached a stable production stage. The diverse group of participants, each with their unique roles, worked tirelessly. Some diligently mixed the ingredients, others dissolved the soap base, and others focused on the careful packaging of the soap. It was a collective effort to refine their skills; with each passing day, the production of soap steadily increased.

Reshma Harijan, the dedicated translator, had been meticulously tracking trainees’ production progress since August 27th. In just one day, 123 pieces of soap were packed, counted by volunteers, and packed into boxes.

The volunteers, who played a crucial role in this endeavor, not only helped count and package the soaps but also found great joy in their involvement. One of them said: "I really like coming to the class; I think it's a lot of fun." The increasing number of soap pieces filled them with a profound sense of accomplishment.

Among the volunteers, Tamanna Khatoon stood out. She brought her mother, Sitarun Nisha, to learn the art of soap packaging. Sitarun excelled in scraping and finishing the unmolded soaps, earning praise and admiration from her fellow volunteers.

On September 1st, the eighth day of the course, Bindravati made a thoughtful contribution by bringing a large bag of dried neem leaves to the class. The volunteers had reminded her of the importance of this ingredient, and her thoughtful gesture was praised by Shakya Subani and the teacher. As the soap-making course neared its end, participants continued to refine their skills, learn from their mistakes, and gain confidence in crafting their own soaps.

"We hope to encourage our care recipients to pay attention to hygiene and wash their hands regularly. We also hope that the trainees will turn their craft into a love and seize the opportunity to give while learning," said one of the volunteers. They believed that these small handmade soaps contained big hearts. On that day, approximately 163 pieces of handmade soap were packaged; they were planned to be included in the list of goods for care recipients on the upcoming Charity Day, set for September 2. In addition to distributing essentials such as rice, salt, sugar, and oil, two pieces of handmade soap would be given to the care recipients. This would empower them to spread love through their newfound skills, leading to increased happiness and a stronger sense of self-worth.

On September 3rd, the ninth day of the course, the participants' handmade soaps had become a part of their daily routine. They had completed their training and were now ready for official mass production. Under the clear blue sky, the volunteers took the opportunity to sun-dry the neem leaves brought by Bindravati the previous day. These leaves would be ground into powder, ensuring a continuous supply of essential materials for soap production. The joy of delivering soap was palpable among the participants.

On the last day of the course, September 4, after making soap, volunteers distributed the hard-earned results to everyone. Participants used it for cleaning and washing, and the fragrance filled their hearts. (Photo by Huang Hui-Wan; Lumbini, Nepal; 2023/09/04)

Azibun Nisha, a 20-year-old trainee and the daughter of care recipient Najima Khatun, could not hide her happiness in helping others. After her father's passing, the family had struggled financially, and her mother faced great distress. Being a Muslim, a mother could not easily find work outside the home. The volunteers stepped in, not only providing food assistance but also creating an opportunity for Azibun Nisha to contribute by learning soap-making.

"After my father left, we encountered a lot of problems. During this time, I learned to make soap, wash my hands regularly, and learn to speak and express myself, as well as learn more," said Azibun Nisha. The handmade soaps they received not only filled a gap left by their loss but also brought love into their lives.

On the final day of the course, September 4, after making the soaps, the volunteers distributed the fruits of their hard work to the participants. These soaps, used for cleaning and washing, filled the air with a refreshing aroma. The volunteers also generously donated soaps to schools and underprivileged families, and ensured that their love would continue to reach those in need. With their hands and hearts united in enthusiasm, this group of women in Lumbini created their own happiness, one piece of soap at a time.

Their story reminds us of a Jing Si Aphorism: "Bringing happiness to others is compassion, bringing happiness to oneself is wisdom. Compassion has no enemies, wisdom has no worries."

Join Tzu Chi. Let us spread Great Love to the needy.

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