The way that we as a society have approached aid has significantly changed over time. We have learned that giving in the form of money and supplies is not only ineffective, but it can also be devastating by crippling local economies. As such, many non-profits are moving towards models that encourage employment, growth, and sustainability.
Sundara Fund sets up the infrastructure to repurpose used hotel soap by coordinating the logistics/materials and employing local women to resanitize/rebatch the soap and act as Hygiene Ambassadors in their communities. Proceeds from our sales are used to help pay for three women to receive fair wages and leftover money is used to hold free hygiene workshops or other related initiatives.
Today, we profile the three women who have been able to lift themselves out of poverty through hard work and through your support.
Hometown: Chiplun village in the Ratnagirl distrcit of Maharashtra
Prior Work: Could not find work after coming to Mumbai
Background: Madhuri came to Mumbai 5 years ago with her parents in hopes of finding work for her father who was a repairman. Not long after the move, Madhuri came home to find her father having a seizure on the floor. He passed away. Afterwards, Madhuri's mother became depressed and reclusive and was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Suddenly, Madhuri became the sole bread-winner.
Life after Sundara: Madhuri became Sundara's first employee over 2 years ago. She is bold, fierce and loud. The rest of the hygiene ambassadors call her "Mama Madhuri" because she looks after them they way she does with her young sisters- congratulating them on their acheivements and scolding them when they do something wrong.
Last year, Madhuri was promoted to be the workshop manager of Sundara's Kalwa center (the initiative which b.a.r.e. soaps supports). She came home and told her mom the good news and they both cried out of happiness. It was a great day.
Hometown: Podapur, a small village of just over 200 people
Prior Work: Servant in a household in the city
Prior Pay: $30 a month for 6 days a week, nearly 15 hours a day
Background: Sushma came to Mumbai on her own when she was 20. She was scared and illiterate when she got to the city. Her mother had forced her to drop out of school when she was 7. The work as a servant was exhausting. She never saw her children and worst of all, her boss beat her regularly. She developed back problems that forced her to quit.
Life after Sundara: Sundara found Sushma 2 years ago – she lives 2 blocks away from the Kalwa workshop. She’s usually quiet and reserved, but when visitors come to the workshop, she laughs as she gets to teach them how to recycle soap. She loves that she doesn’t have to pay for someone to look after her children now – she can bring her children to work when they are out of school and watch over them as they do homework in the corner. The other women will check on her children when she can’t and will take turns walking each other’s children to school so the others can work early.
Sushma never thought of herself as smart, because she dropped out of school but it occurred to her a few months ago, as she was teaching the US embassy staff how to recycle soap, that maybe she is an expert in something after all.
Hometown: State of Uttar Pradesh in Northern India
Prior Work: Making small pieces of jewelry and selling them door-too-door
Background: Kanchan came to Mumbai to find better work for her husband and afford to send their two children to school. Like many migrants, Kanchan's husband struggled to find work. Though he now works as a painter on a Bollywood film set, his work is often irregular and goes weeks, sometimes months, without a work assignment.
Life after Sundara: Kanchan is illiterate so it has been difficult communicating in the local language (Marathi). However, Sundara has been able to employ Kanchan as a soap recycler and hygiene ambassador. Two years into her job and Kanchan is now bringing home a higher salary than her husband. This is something completely unheard of back in her hometown in Uttar Pradesh – and something she never dreamed of for herself.
Now she has the money to pay for her son’s school fees – and she plans to send her daughter to school next year too.
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