On February 16, we proudly launched our third soap-recycling workshop in India, located in the Kalas locality of Pune.
The day before, we went to Kalas to visit and prepare for the inauguration ceremony. We were greeted by children running to meet us, mothers waving at us while they collect water at the public tap, and neighbours inviting us into their home for chai.
Let’s take a step back to explain how we got connected to this wonderful community.
Madhuri Pawar, one of our Hygiene Ambassadors and supervisor of the Kalwa workshop in Mumbai, grew up in the house at the end of the lane where our new Pune workshop is located. Madhuri hasn’t been shy to tell all of her friends from back home (Kalas) how impactful her time with Sundara has been. Word of mouth spread on all of the positive impact Sundara was having in Kalwa. Madhuri’s friends became eager to have this program replicated in Pune. After ensuring that Sundara’s soap recycling program was not only needed in Kalas, but that the entire community welcomed the idea with open arms, we knew we had found the perfect location for our third soap recycling workshop in India.
Over 40% of Pune’s 4 million residents are living below the poverty line in crowded urban slums. A 2008 study on water identified that 256 government schools in the slums of Pune have zero access to soap. The need for access to proper hygiene and sanitation here is so great–and it’s because of our incredible supporters like you, who helped us raise over 20K for this new workshop, that we are already hard at work to bring thousands of bars of soap into these schools.
Aniiethaa has worked hard in different jobs to earn money throughout her life, working for a fishing company in the Maldives and at Sushrut Hospital, teaching tuition classes and selling saris. After returning from the Maldives, she wanted to own her own home more than anything, and after five years of more hard work and savings, she was able to buy a quaint two-story house in Kalas. When Aniiethaa met with our Sundara India director Kenneth Desouza, she offered to move her belongings to the second floor to rent the first floor to Sundara so that we could set-up our workshop there.
Aniiethaa has running water and a toilet in her home, but many of her neighbours do not have the same luxury; they have to fetch water at the public tap every morning and use the 20 public latrines available for the community.
Sujata, Meena and Aniiethaa proudly invited neighbours to join our inauguration ceremony on February 16. Their excitement to start in their new roles of Sundara Hygiene Ambassadors is contagious.
“I love the fact that I will get to meet people and help them through my work”, Aniiethaa tells us. Meena adds that she feels proud that she will be able to reach out to people that would otherwise would not have access to soap. All three Hygiene Ambassadors are moved when we explain that with their hard work and dedication to Sundara, over 4000 children across Pune slums will receive soap and hygiene education.
This is only the beginning of what will be an amazing new journey for these women, their Kalas neighbours and the communities they will serve. Sundara is beaming with joy to provide these women with a living wage, transferable employment skills, and most of all, empowerment to become agents of change within their own lives.