Passnotes with Luis Surroca Llorens

by | Volunteering

I am Soap Cycling Singapore (SCSG)’s… biggest football fan.

The journey with SCSG started… when I arrived in Hong Kong for what I then believed would be a standard year abroad. I enrolled in multiple classes that seemed fun, two of them taught by David Bishop, someone very involved in the world of social impact, which marked the start of my interest towards social entrepreneurship. But then the Hong Kong protests happened and I was forced to return to Europe but in a twist of fate, I managed to change my destination from Europe to Singapore, where I got to know that Soap Cycling, which I wanted to intern for in HK, also had a presence. That’s the long story short!

Why soap? It may sound basic, or obvious, but that is exactly why. Soap is the most basic resource that we take for granted every day. Soap keeps us clean, but nowadays, it also keeps us safe. The sheer amount of people and communities that do not have access to it is mind blowing!

A day without soap… is a day exposed to all sorts of germs and microbes that can affect your health and well-being. Not many of us can imagine living without it, especially under the current circumstances.

Working on SCSG’s corporate activities pitch… I recall I was in the Philippines for a good part of it. It was my mid-term break, and having lost a few months of travel, I was keen to see more of South-east Asia. There I was, in a six-hour van ride in Palawan, with my laptop on my legs, while the van swerved from one side of the road to the other (the driver’s skill was close to that of a rally racer!). I was trying to meticulously edit the design of the pitch with all that intense rattling of the van going on. The driver was racing, my friends were laughing, and I was getting very dizzy!

The best part about volunteering with SCSG… I just can’t name one, it would be a crime! Firstly, the fact that you stop being a student. Too many times students feel like they just learn, but never impact or affect the real world. It’s almost like living in a bubble. This experience is, well, “bubble-popping”!

It can’t be all that rosy… it’s true. There are moments where you really see the impact you’re making, and many others where you realise that there is so much more to be done. It’s like walking along a corridor to a door that seems to be stretching away from you. COVID-19 accentuated this, very heavily. The migrant workers were the hardest hit in Singapore and the fact that I was being sent home meant that, well, I couldn’t really help as much as I wanted to.

I seem to be in Asia at the wrong time but… I disagree. I had never been to Asia before this experience, and as interesting as it may have been, you can’t beat this: I have lived through a social revolution, a natural disaster, and a pandemic. Each of these phenomena has made me realise a ton of things in each of the places I have visited. In general, seeing societies mobilise in this way really paves the way to understand them better and learn about them in ways that surpass any sort of superficial belief that I may have held in my “Western perspective”.

You often hear me say this… well, actually, I just said it: “In my western perspective”. I love “the west”, and I am proud to come from Europe, a bastion of liberalism and economic and social progress. However, I only now realise that we live in somewhat of a bubble. Living in Asia, and working so closely with SCSG, not only made me realise this, but also forced me to drop many preconceptions I had about South-east Asian cultures. It has permanently changed my impressions and perceptions of the region.

I am still continuing with SCSG from thousands of miles away……. despite a six-hour time difference. I feel like for as long as I can contribute to this organisation, I will keep doing so. I don’t want thousands of miles to get in the way of why I joined SCSG – to have a positive impact on society, and do so with the most basic of resources— soap.

Luis Surroca Llorens is from Madrid, Spain. He is a PPE (Philosophy, Politics & Economics) student in the UK, having studied abroad in Hong Kong and Singapore. He loves sports, mainly football, mountain biking, and skiing. He is passionate about supporting social entrepreneurship to maximise their impact on society.