Erin Zaikis from the United States is making hygiene a household name in Indian slums and villages through her non-profit Sundara. By Pallavi Mehra
Sundara, which means beautiful in Sanskrit, lives up to its motto of ‘soap with a mission.’ The enterprise recycles old hotel soaps into new hygienic soap bars and distributes these for free to communities in need. The non-profit employs local women and dispenses free hygiene education classes to the poor too.
Erin Zaikis, 28, was motivated to start Sundara in 2013 when she was involved with an NGO in a Thai village. When she asked the children at a school where their soap was, they had no idea what she was talking about. “It was heart-breaking to see they didn’t have access to something so basic,” says the change maker. According to reports, every year, 2 million children die of diseases such as diarrhoea and pneumonia that could be stopped by basic hygiene. Moreover, the hospitality industry throws away billions of bars of gently used soap every year.
Currently, Sundara is operational pan India, with centres in Kalwa, Palghar, Devkhop and Pune in Maharashtra. The team is opening a centre in Bengaluru soon. Since its inception, Sundara has recycled thousands of kilograms of soap, brought regular soap deliveries and hygiene classes to 31,200 children, and has impacted 3,80,101 lives! “Our long-term goal is to not only educate children about hygiene, but also give them the tools to protect and empower themselves,” says Erin Zaikis.