Derreck Kayongo was born January 25, 1970, in Kampala, Uganda, just before General Idi Amin Dada seized power in a military coup. The new regime became known for its brutality, and today Idi Amin is one of history's most notorious dictators. As violence spread through the country and civil war erupted, Kayongo and his family became refugees in Kenya. He later immigrated to America to attend university. Today, he is a successful entrepreneur and human rights innovator.
Though most well known as a 2011 CNN Hero and founder of the Global Soap Project, Kayongo is an expert in environmental sustainability and global health, as well as the current CEO of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, Georgia. In 2016 the Georgia State Senate passed a resolution recognizing Kayongo's incredible journey from refugee to CEO.
About the Global Soap Project
On his first day in America, Derreck Kayongo was preparing to take a shower in his hotel when he discovered the many different kinds of soap in his room: hand soap, face soap, body soap, shampoo, conditioner. He had never seen so much soap for one person. After a few days, he began to wonder what happened to the partially used soap that disappeared from his room each day and discovered that it was just thrown away. Inspired by his experiences as a refugee in Kenya, and knowing that in-crisis communities are often without any soap at all, Kayongo and his wife Sarah eventually created a life-changing international aid organization that collects discarded soap from hotels, reprocesses it and distributes it to vulnerable populations worldwide. This simple idea fights the #1 killers of children in many at-risk communities: hygiene-related diseases. Active in 32 countries, Global Soap has given millions of bars of soap to refugees and people affected by natural disasters like the earthquakes in Haiti and Nepal. Global Soap recently partnered with Clean the World. These organizations have contributed to an amazing 30% reduction in child deaths, globally, since 2009 and are expanding Kayongo's original vision to include micro-loans and training for soap makers in communities around the world. The city of Atlanta designated May 5 as annual Global Soap Project Day.
The National Center for Civil and Human Rights
In 2015 Derreck Kayongo was chosen as the new Chief Executive Officer for the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta GA. The Center is located in downtown Atlanta at Centennial Olympic Park on land donated by the Coca-Cola Company and is involved in wide range of human rights issues. Under Kayongo's leadership, the Center is becoming even more vital to Atlanta's social and political scenes. In addition to the Center's moving and beautifully designed galleries, the space is used for corporate meetings, weddings and a wide variety of events.
With his entrepreneurial spirit and experiences as a refugee and immigrant, Kayongo is uniquely qualified to address the Center's mission of empowerment and understanding, as well as help facilitate the "ongoing dialogue about human rights."
- In an ironic twist of fate, the Center includes a gallery with large photographs of some of the worlds most violent leaders. Uganda's General Idi Amin is there and each day, as Kayongo works, he walks right by the display.
Public Life and Speaking
In 2014, Kayongo joined the elite TED TALK speakers in Charleston, SC, and he travels the world sharing his knowledge and experiences. In his words, he is "giving voice to the voiceless" since many people affected by displacement and civil war never have a chance to be heard. Known for his optimistic energy, Kayongo is a joyful, expressive speaker whose stories entertain, educate and inspire audiences of all ages and backgrounds. He has done hundreds of interviews around the world and has been seen on CNN, the Christiana Amanpour Show and BBC's Focus on Africa. In December 2015, Bo Emerson of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution referenced an earlier AJC article, writing that " In describing Kayongo's rhetorical skills, staff writer Matt Kempner wrote, "This is his greatest strength: getting people inspired to see the bigger picture. Convincing them that even the little guy can do something big.""
- President Jimmy Carter recently chose Kayongo to interview him as part of the National Archives’ Amending America Initiative
Derreck Kayongo holds an honorary doctorate from Oglethorpe University and is a graduate of the prestigious Fletcher school of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.
- "Top 10 CNN Hero: Derreck Kayongo". www.cnn.com. Retrieved 2019-07-10.
- "Center for Civil and Human Rights" National Center for Civil and Human Rights Inc.,| Center for Civil and Human Rights. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 June 2016. <http://www.civilandhumanrights.org/>.
- Derreck Kayongo's Story." Personal interview. Patricia Henritze. 2016
- TEDxTalks. "Simple Solutions for Colossal Problems | Derreck Kayongo." YouTube. YouTube, 14 May 2014. Web. 22 June 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PHW5hvTFhrg>.
- Emerson, Bo. "Derreck Kayongo Is New CEO at Center for Civil and Human Rights." AJC.com. Atlanta Journal Constitution, n.d. Web. 22 June 2016. <http://www.ajc.com/news/news/derreck-kayongo-is-new-ceo-at-center-for-civil-and/npcJj/>.
- TEDXTalks. "Watch "Hard Days, Bright Ideas - the Power of Life Changing Events: Derreck Kayongo at TEDxCharleston" Video at TEDxTalks." TEDxTalks. TEDxTalks, n.d. Web. 22 June 2016. <http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/Hard-days-bright-ideas-the-powe;search%3Aderreck%20kayongo>.
- Emerson, Bo. "Derreck Kayongo Is New CEO at Center for Civil and Human Rights." AJC.com: Atlanta Georgia News, AJC Sports, Atlanta Weather. Atlanta Journal Constitution, 04 Dec. 2015. Web. 20 June 2016. http://www.ajc.com/news/news/derreck-kayongo-is-new-ceo-at-center-for-civil-and/npcJj/
- "Amending America: Civil Rights and Individual Freedom - National Archives Foundation." National Archives Foundation. N.p., 29 Feb. 2016. Web. 22 June 2016. <https://www.archivesfoundation.org/amendingamerica/conversations/civil-rights/>.
- "Global Soap Project." History «. Globalsoap.org, n.d. Web. 20 June 2016. http://www.globalsoap.org/about/history/
- "Our Team." National Center for Civil and Human Rights Inc. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 June 2016. http://www.civilandhumanrights.org/our-team
- "Center for Civil and Human Rights" National Center for Civil and Human Rights Inc.,| Center for Civil and Human Rights. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 June 2016. http://www.civilandhumanrights.org/
- N.p., n.d. Web. http://www.kepplerspeakers.com/speakers/?speaker=Derreck%20Kayongo
- Emerson, Bo. "Derreck Kayongo Is New CEO at Center for Civil and Human Rights." AJC.com: Atlanta Georgia News, AJC Sports, Atlanta Weather. Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 04 Dec. 2015. Web. 20 June 2016. http://www.ajc.com/news/news/derreck-kayongo-is-new-ceo-at-center-for-civil-and/npcJj/