In early June 2019, b.a.r.e. soaps announced that it was partnering with Sundara to launch a soap recycling initiative in the slums of Kalwa (Mumbai, India). In the next few months, we will be profiling the people who we work with, the initiatives, and progress.
Sheetal was hired as Sundara’s India program assistant. She works 4 days a week, managing soap collections, calling hotels and arranging for the pick up of soap waste from nearly 2 dozen hotels. Most importantly, she makes sure the soap is distributed to local schools and medical clinics on time.
Sheetal grew up with in a village near Palghar district as the daughter of an onion and rice farmer. With just one plot of land - that her family didn’t even own - life was challenging for Sheetal and her brother and sister. There wasn’t enough food, especially during the droughts that happened nearly every year.
At 17, Sheetal left home and went to Mumbai to look for work. She didn’t want to farm like her parents. So she found a job working as a maid in an upscale part of town. Her salary? Just $30 per month. She worked 6 days a week, with a long commute on an overcrowded railcar each way to her rented room in a slum outside of the city.
Her sister, who was also a maid in Palghar, phoned her this spring and asked her if she would ever consider another job. Sundara’s program director, Kenneth, had spoke to a women’s organization that Sheetal’s sister was a part of, about a job position as a program assistant.
Sheetal wasn’t sure if she was qualified but she jumped at the chance to be something other than a maid. She met Kenneth, who was impressed by her hard work ethic and passion for villagers (like herself) to improve their health and opportunities. He called her the next week: she was hired!
We interviewed Sheetal at the Sundara team lunch in May and she was beaming. Her new commute is only a 5-minute walk from her house. She makes over 3 times her old salary.
The best part? She believes in the cause. “Two weeks ago, I had the chance to visit Sundara’s operation in the Ashte village. I felt so happy to see the children using the soap in class— it gives me a newfound sense of purpose for the work I do every day.”
“I love how I can physically see Sundara’s immediate impact from teaching them how to use soap and wash regularly—you don’t have to wait to see the results.”
We asked her if there was anything she wanted to add when we introduced her on our website: “I’d like to thank everyone in the USA for supporting the soap recycling work we do. Thank you for believing in people like me!”
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