Doniece Sandoval is the founder of Lava Mae, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that converts public transportation buses into bathrooms on wheels for the homeless. Driven by a fierce belief that everyone deserves the right to be clean, she was inspired to build Lava Mae after learning about the appalling lack of showers and toilets available to those experiencing homelessness across this country.
Her mobile hygiene odyssey began with an inherent understanding that collaboration across the sectors was key to making Lava Mae a success. With the help of the Mayor’s Office of Housing, Opportunity, Engagement and Partnership, partnerships were seeded with some of the city’s most respected nonprofit homeless providers, city agencies from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and companies such as Google.
Almost three years since the idea first came to her, Doniece is scaling Lava Mae locally to provide 50,000 showers per year and unlock opportunities for those experiencing homelessness. Globally, Lava Mae has become a model for addressing access to water and sanitation – a basic human right – and for delivering dignity to and unlocking opportunity for marginalized populations.
Doniece credits the international visibility Lava Mae has achieved both to the cord it’s striking and to her extensive marketing/branding/PR experience. Before tackling hygiene for the homeless, Doniece sent the previous decade working in the arts as head of marketing at the San Jose Museum of Art – growing the coveted young adult audience by over 200% in two years, and then as Chief External Relations Officer for ZERO1 - an organization dedicated to showcasing the work of some of the most fertile minds from the worlds of art, science, design, architecture, and technology - where she helped secure major funding, shaped programming, and developed and stewarded the brand.
Her private sector experience includes
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