Doniece Sandoval: She's Showering Hope

March 8 - On The Dot
FIRST THOUGHT: Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged

If there’s one thing I believe in, it’s that you can’t judge a book by its cover—unless it has Fabio on it. After all, generalizations are almost always inaccurate. The next time you’re quick to assume, remember what it feels like to be the recipient of a hurled stereotype, for instance, the idea that women are supposed to be nurses, not doctors, or that women don’t like video games and have to love glittery rainbows and butterflies. Today, we’re only making one assumption: that people are just people, like you and me.


I recently read a self-care checklist that I’ve since kept in the back of my mind. Whenever I’m feeling crummy, like say when someone flings one of those dumb stereotypes at me, I go through the list: Have I eaten today? Have I showered? Could I use a nap? Ultimately, that shower idea is my go-to pick-me-up. And I’m not the only one who feels this way about the restorative characteristics of a good, hot spray of water.

According to the Planet of Success blog, taking a shower is the number one way to boost your confidence. Of course, showering also offers energizing effects and can make you feel revitalized. So, the next time you’re feeling bummed or low in the self-esteem arena, grab your loofah and let the water wash it all away.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Doniece Sandoval, Founder and CEO of Lava Mae

Who doesn’t deserve to feel that boost of confidence or just the basic human right to scrub off the grime of life? That’s precisely what Doniece Sandoval thinks, and that’s why she started a really impactful organization called Lava Mae, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that converts retired public-transportation buses into bathrooms on wheels for the homeless.

Doniece was inspired to launch Lava Mae after learning about the appalling lack of showers and toilets available to those experiencing homelessness throughout the U.S., an idea that was further solidified after Doniece’s heartbreaking encounter with one woman on the streets sobbing because she worried she’d never be clean again. While it might be easy to dismiss access to clean water as a third-world problem, that simply isn’t the case. Indeed, Doniece decided to launch Lava Mae—a play on the Spanish word for “wash me”—after learning that thousands of men, women and children who live on the streets in San Francisco had access to only 16 shower stalls.

After hearing about the up-and-coming mobile-food-truck boom, Doniece came up with a solution: mobile showers. She used a crowdfunding platform to purchase two decommissioned municipal buses to create private, safe and hygienic spaces for homeless individuals.

Each bus can provide as many as 12,500 showers per year, and since it began, Lava Mae estimates that it has provided as many as 50,000 showers to the community each year. The service has extended to Los Angeles, but Doniece has even bigger plans for the concept. Lava Mae is working on creating a detailed strategy that can be implemented by anyone throughout the world interested in replicating the service.

And Doniece isn’t stopping with showers. Lava Mae recently launched a new program called Pop-up Care Villages, through which service providers bring care to the streets in the form of free haircuts, medical attention, hot meals and more.

For Doniece, providing the homeless with Lava Mae services is just one step to giving people a boost out of homelessness, and she notes that 80 percent of homeless people are actively trying to get out of homelessness. By providing what Lava Mae calls “radical hospitality” to these individuals, Doniece and Lava Mae volunteers give more than showers; they offer the gift of hope to those most in need.


These words from writer and activist Anne Lamott perfectly sum up Lava Mae’s mission. She said:

“You can change the world with a hot bath if you sink into it from a place of knowing that you are worth profound care, even when you’re dirty and rattled.”

This is Melinda Garvey signing off until next time. Remember, ladies, empowered women empower other women. Share On the Dot so more women can have a voice. Thanks for getting ready with us.

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