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Article: Washing is dignity - An interview with Gülay Ulaş

Washing is dignity - An interview with Gülay Ulaş

Washing is dignity - An interview with Gülay Ulaş

MYMARINI was born out of a love for water. To this day, the sea is our main source of inspiration – our designs are worn on and in the water. The ocean fascinates us and helps us switch off, relax, and let our thoughts flow. That’s why we launched our "Water is Love" campaign in 2020. As part of this campaign, we support projects and ideas related to the topic of water. Because water isn’t just something we love; it’s also an essential human right.

We were looking for a project with which we could contribute to the implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 6 – access to clean water, and SDG 10 – reduced inequality. Since summer 2020, we’ve been supporting the non-profit organization GoBanyo and donate 30 water boxes each month. Gülay Ulaş is responsible for communications at GoBanyo, among other things, and her work is her passion. Gülay has been an inspiration to us ever since we met her in 2020.

Photo: Julia Schwendner

Gülay, you are one of the founders of GoBanyo... Where did you get the idea to start an aid project for people with no fixed abode?

At that time, shower buses already existed in various states in the U.S. and Paris. Our co-founder Dominik himself had to live on the streets for a long time. Not being able to wash regularly was a big problem for him. One day he told me about the shower bus idea. I was immediately convinced, and we developed GoBanyo together.

How did things progress from there – from the idea to the first converted bus

We gradually brought great people on board, started a big crowdfunding campaign with over 3,500 supporters to convert the bus, and founded a non-profit organization in collaboration with several associations. We now have an additional stationary shower village, and our second mobile shower is coming in the summer of 2022.

What drives you in your work?

I want to use my work to elevate issues on the street to a socio-political level. That’s why I care about communication – to create awareness of these issues.

What have you learned over the years from the people you’ve met through your work?

First and foremost, I’ve learned that no one is homeless by choice.

What have been your biggest hurdles so far?

The biggest hurdle remains that we have to help people acutely, on a local scale – but at the same time, we’re helping strengthen an unfair parallel system: for individuals with no fixed abode, a shower, a meal, or taking care of a wound has to be enough. For ourselves, however, this would never be enough. Of course we want a private shower in our own rented apartment, and we want to be able to go to a well-equipped doctor’s office if necessary. That’s unfair. There should be no double standard for meeting basic needs.

What is your vision? Where can and should we go?

Our vision is to provide access to clean sanitation and unconditional housing for all. We still have a long way to go to get there. We will be loud and active wherever there is a need. We have a team in place to do outreach – “Washing is Dignity” and GoBanyo are growing steadily, but will hopefully one day no longer be needed.

What does a typical day look like in the shower village or on the shower bus? Is there even such a thing as a typical day?

Every day brings new topics, challenges, and encounters. But one thing is always the same: the shower bus drives to the respective location and has to get filled up with drinking water from a hydrant. Our shower village just needs to be unlocked. We set up everything necessary to provide a comfortable environment. The bathrooms are checked to make sure they’re clean and fully stocked, and the water is checked to make sure it’s hot enough. Our guests are offered water or hot drinks when they arrive. Some feel like chatting first and others want to get right in the shower. They’re given a towel, new underwear, fresh clothes, and personal care products. Our guests can donate their worn clothes to us. We clean them so that our clothes closet is always full. After each use, we clean our bathrooms with steam cleaners and biodegradable professional detergent. We did this even before the COVID pandemic. None of this would have been possible without our many great volunteers.

What do you associate with water?

Health – a human right. In theory, all people are entitled to water, but in practice, we’re far from achieving that. We can only do our work because those affected, private individuals, as well as associations, foundations, companies, and authorities, trust us. Every platform that is offered to us helps us keep spreading our guiding principle “Washing is Dignity.” Thank you also, dear MYMARINI team, for accompanying and supporting us for so long. <3

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