Soap means hope for some of world’s poorest people

A potential new festive tradition has begun in Londonderry where a humble bar of soap has been added to the decorations adorning the Christmas tree in St Columb’s Cathedral.

The Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, the Rt Rev Andrew Forster, hung a bar of soap on the tree as part of Christian Aid Ireland’s campaign to celebrate the life-saving power of soap and to raise awareness of the millions who still lack easy access to soap and water at home.

Bishop Forster explained why he was backing the campaign: “For us, soap is commonplace. Most of us take it for granted. Nowadays, though, soap can literally be the difference between life and death. Regular handwashing with soap is one of the best ways of preventing coronavirus from spreading. Almost half the world’s population don’t have that option, though. Christian Aid estimates that 3 billion people worldwide – 40% of the world’s population – don’t have soap and water in their homes. For them, soap is a luxury. I’m delighted to support Christian Aid Ireland’s ‘Soap Builds Hope’ campaign. If we can raise awareness and raise money, we can save lives and bring hope to many of our poorest brothers and sisters.”

As part of its global coronavirus response, Christian Aid has so far managed to distribute soap to around 250,000 people in 18 countries as part of their effort to prevent the virus spreading in some of the most vulnerable communities in the world.

Soap plays an important role in helping fight poverty too. In Ethiopia, as well as the impact of coronavirus, the climate crisis is increasing the risk of drought and famine, which is pushing farming communities further into poverty. Christian Aid is providing women with the tools they need to run a successful soap-making business. Mother-of-three Kumana Kurasho (26) has been trained in soap-making by Christian Aid using the drought-resistant aloe vera plant native to the area which thrives where other crops fail.

Christian Aid Ireland is asking people to take a photo of their soap Christmas tree decoration and share it on social media with the hashtag #SoapBuildsHope to encourage others to take part.

This year, Christian Aid has expanded its virtual gift selection to include a Charity Gift priced at £15/€15 enabling supporters to help train more women to make soap. To support Christian Aid and help other mothers like Kumana, visit

(Photograph: Lorcan Doherty)