Pitt Alum Returns for Emerging Global Leaders Program

While volunteering as a Pitt undergraduate student in Cambodia in 2014, Samir Lakhani (A&S ‘14) learned that used soap can save lives.

As Lakhani traveled to rural communities, he perceived a lack of access to soap and hygiene education. Lakhani was shocked to watch a village mother scrub her newborn baby in a basin filled with laundry powder and water. Haunted by what he had seen, Lakhani returned to his hotel where he noticed that the housekeeper had replaced his barely used bar of soap with a new one. He realized that one solution to the problem was sitting in landfills: barely-used bars of soap.

Still a student at Pitt, Lakhani founded the Eco-Soap Bank on the idea that used hotel soap can be recycled and redistributed to health clinics, villages, and schools. To date, Eco-Soap Bank has provided over 1.1 million people with recycled soap and free hygiene education and operates in 10 countries across Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

Eco-Soap Bank makes three major impacts simultaneously: it reduces the amount of waste generated by hotels; provides soap to those in need and teaches them how to use it, reducing the prevalence of diarrhea and child mortality; and employs women in developing nations, who then reinvest their income into their families. Lakhani received a CNN Heroes Award in 2017 for his work.

Lakhani keeps in close touch with his alma mater. Earlier this year, he addressed graduates and their families at the University Center for International Studies’ certificate graduation ceremony. In July, he spoke about Eco-Soap Bank and global activism to high school students enrolled in the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for Global and International Studies.

Lakhani returns to Pitt again this month for the weeklong Emerging Global Leaders residency that begins on September 23. He will speak to several classes and participate in events such as the Water is Life forum. The Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies is hosting the free, public forum with support from the Asian Studies Center, the Center for Latin American Studies, Pitt Study Abroad, Amizade, the University Center for International Studies (UCIS), and the Office of the Provost.

John Stoner, executive director for academic affairs at UCIS, calls the Emerging Global Leaders residency a “student-centric” initiative and says Lakhani clearly welcomes the opportunity to “give back to students as much as he can.” In addition to possibly meeting Lakhani in a class, students are welcome to drop in and talk with him at the Pitt Global Hub throughout the week.

Emerging Global Leaders Residency

September 23 – 27, 2019
Pitt Global Hub “Office Hours”
Monday, September 23, 1-3:30 p.m.

Wednesday, September 25, 9 a.m.-12 p.m.

Friday, September 27, 9 a.m.-12 p.m.

Water is Life Forum
September 23, 2019
4-6 p.m.
Pitt Global Hub, Posvar Hall 1st Floor
No RSVP Necessary