NO MATTER, how small it is, but an initiative that generates employment; emboldens skill development, teaches children the necessity of hygiene in daily lives and recycles waste is convincing enough to bring the change at ground. The idea of recycling soap collected from hotels as waste and distributing to the deprived children stuck to Erin’s mind when she visited rural Thailand, some two years back. She learned that even today, hundreds of millions of people go without access to soap – the most basic medicine available. On the other hand affluent people are used to check in/out 5-star and 4-star hotels generating kilos of soap as waste on a daily basis. Most of the bar soaps are disposed off to landfill after onetime use. Initially, “I was very moved by this experience, and I started talking to friends about hygiene education and simultaneously getting those used to the fullest of their lives. No one really bothered, everyone was talking about e-model but not about such things.
So, I started Sundara as the solution of this problem because I saw something which bothered me and I really wanted to help,” says Erin.
What exactly Sundara does at Mumbai slums? “After collaborating with various hotels group, we collect their waste-soaps, sanitise with the help of Diversey-made chemicals, then recycles and reproduces new soaps under the brand name ‘Sundara’. The soaps are then distributed to the community schools for free,” says Kenneth Dsouza Director – India, Sundara Foundation and Gabriel Project Mumbai (GPM)
“This is just the beginning. We have involved all the teachers and students; do show them how important cleaning & hygiene is, in their lives. To make things interesting and easy to understand, besides games, multimedia films and charts are also shown to them. We do provide a regular health check to all these slum boys and it is pleasing to say that their health index has gone up.”
“The Diversey Care division of Sealed Air is partnering with Sundara to incorporate this holistic initiative as part of their CSR. This will help us grow further.”
Erin says, “Working in India has been extremely challenging but also rewarding. When I first started Sundara in Mumbai, I had to go around and explain the concept of soap recycling because no one really knew what it was. Now, people at large do understand the benefit of it. Today, we have hotels approaching us and they want to work together. It is a nice reversal to see more awareness about soap recycling and benefits. Even though it is tuff to work in Mumbai there are so many stake holders involved in our process and we are trying to focus on soap recycling and famous as possible and perfecting our process.”
Kenneth: “All the leading hotels in Mumbai say like Taj, Hyatt, Hilton, Palladium, 4 seasons and the Leela are now happily providing us the used bars. At present, we are distributing nearly 2000-3000 soaps to the slums like Kalwa and Palghar, near Mumbai. Almost 3000 students are getting benefitted from this at present. Each student gets two bars a month.”
“Our sister NGO GPM also provides mid-day meal. Before eating, the children are asked to wash their hands essentially. The penetration is deeper. The students then teach their parents too. This is how we are trying to educate the entire society.”
Talking about five years down the line, “We want to expand it further; add more hotels to our list of hospitality partners and employ more women and add more schools to the beneficiaries,” says Erin.