New Delhi: After every few days, when your soap bar is reduced to a tiny piece, what do you do with it? Discard it, right? But that’s not what Erin Zaikis would do. This 26-year-old from Boston started a soap revolution in 2014 in India through Sundara, an organization that employs underprivileged women from the slum areas of Mumbai. These women collect soap bars from hotels and process it into new bars of hygienic soap and distribute it to the underprivileged children while teaching about the benefits of hand washing and basic hygiene.
“Sometimes the best solutions are the simplest. Soap and hand washing education attracted me because of its simplicity. It’s low cost, low technology and incredibly effective,” says Erin Zaikis who came to India to work with an orphanage, after watching Slumdog Millionaire, a movie that portrayed the lives of people in Mumbai slums.
In 2013, Erin Zaikis found the purpose for her life while she was working at the Thailand-Myanmar border and discovered that soap was missing from everyone’s life. And that was the beginning of Sundara that is a Sanskrit word for “beautiful”.
Poor hygiene is responsible for 1 out of every 9 child deaths in India – that’s more than AIDS, measles, and malaria combined. Unilever estimates that there are 70 million people in India alone, who have never used soap. That is where Sundara’s initiative of recycling used hotel soaps into new bars plays an important role.
Explaining the motto of the company, Erin Zaikis added,
“We believe that real beauty is what you give and teach to others.”
First the old soap bars are collected, then are washed and cleaned with a chemical solution. Afterwards the old soap bars are dried, and then via potato peeler, the soap is shortened into smaller pieces and then everything is mashed together.
Through a manually operated, small scale soap recycling machine finally new soap bars are made out of the old ones. Then these bars are packaged and distributed to underprivileged students along with a lesson on hygiene.
Madhuri a worker from Mumbai speaking to NDTV said,
The process of making soaps is very simple; we make 45 kilos of soaps every single day. Moreover, this job allows me to care for my family and improve my community. I feel so proud.
Apart from inculcating better hygiene awareness and hoping to make India disease free, Sundara is uplifting local women marred by poverty and providing them with the livelihood.
Erin Zaikis signs off by saying,
I hope more people can understand the importance of this basic necessity for children all over the world and come forward and do their bit.