Sundara was the focal point of N Raghuraman’s op-ed in Dainik Bhaskar titled “Prioritizing Health over Prosperity for Strengthening Future Generations”
If you ever forget to carry soap while visiting a makeshift toilet and scream for soap then anybody can bet that the people around would be baffled and confused as to what you are talking about. This is not a joke. You can visit any of the 6 lakh villages in India, where 100-300 families live and the population is not more than 2000, then you will find that what I have said is true. They don’t what soap is. And this is true not only of India but also Asia, Africa and all developing countries in other continents. And one such incident in Thailand changed the life of 25 year old American, post graduate Erin Zaikis.
In the year 2013, while in Thailand she visited the bathroom without soap. When she asked for help from the students nearby they couldn’t understand what she was asking for and referring to. She was in Thailand working as a volunteer of organisations that were fighting against child trafficking in that country. This assignment required her to interact with students in schools in remote villages and create awareness against this illegal trafficking.
Erin was born in a middle class family in Boston but the use of soap was a part of her basic education to prevent diseases like Influenza, Diarrhea, Cholera, Hepatitis A and Food Poisoning. When she realized that the students were clueless about something as essential as soap, she drove three hours to a soap retailer and bought 150 soap bars to educate the kids.
She then returned to America and made a list of places where people have never heard of soap. To get a better understanding of the subject she visited a few places and realized that she can’t supply soap to these places by manufacturing it. She thought of an alternative to overcome with this challenge.
Fast forward to 2015, Erin is now the head of a non-governmental organization, Sundara, that employs 26 people. Sundara collects used soaps and distributes them to the poorest parts of India. How does this organization work? Sundara has partnered with a few prominent hotels. Sundara collects used soaps from these hotels, recycles them using a clean technique and supplies them to the underprivileged sections of the society. Taj group, Leela group, Hyatt Regency and other prominent hotels in Mumbai saw sense in this idea. They didn’t have to shell out any more for being a part of it and could get rid of a chemically active waste in an environment friendly manner. It was a win-win for all.
Post getting support from these hotels, Erin set up a 2 room recycling factory in Mumbai. At the factory, used soaps collected from hotels is segregated and cleaned. A peeler is used to clean the used soap that has come in contact with the body. This is then treated chemically to treat any impurities in the soap. The output is then transformed into a big block using a machine which is cut into small bars of soap to be distributed among the targeted beneficiaries. In this year alone, Erin’s NGO has purified the lives of 6000 people by distributing 10,000 bars of soap. The people who have benefited from this scheme, their lives are said to be getting cleaner and healthier day by day. Their lives are getting beautiful everyday which is what the practical meaning of “Sundara” is.
The message is to prioritise health over prosperity. Any effort in this direction would make our future generations far more beautiful than our own.
Thank you to Charu Billore, Amit Rajani and Ankita Dabas for the translation help.
See the article in its original format here.