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Sundara Review: Saving Lives One Bar Of Soap At A Time

Written by Isabelle Marsh

A grandmother caring for three of her grandchildren works a 12 hour day in the heat of Mumbai. She works at the local cafe and walks various weather conditions to reach her place of employment everyday. She’s barefoot and doesn’t mind the heat. She’s a hard worker with a caring soul. Her grandchildren, ages 4, 7 and 10 return from school on foot and help prepare the evening meal. What’s missing each day is the gift of hygiene, proper sanitation and soap. Her grandchildren have never washed their hands and do not know the coined word ‘soap’.

Sundara Review

In their Mumbai operation, Sundara delivers soap and hygiene trainings to over 2,000 children.

The hospitality industry is one of the major culprits. Each day, billions of bars of soap are wasted, thrown away or disposed of into landfills. In many countries, soap is a foreign concept. Without proper hygiene, countries go without and subject themselves to harmful conditions such as diarrhea and pneumonia. Soap, in simple terms, is the simplest form of medicine.

Soap is said to be more effective than traditional medicine or vaccines, especially in developing or third world countries. Think of how powerful that statement is. That means that just by providing one bar of soap to a child, mother, or father in need is providing a chance at healing.

The Power of Soap

With the help of a little TLC, Sundara provides soap to those who cannot access clean hygiene items. Sundara is a nonprofit that trains women in India, Uganda and Myanmar to become hygiene ambassadors who recycle soap products, distribute products and educate communities on the importance of hygiene.

Erin, the founder of Sundara, saw a need to preserve soap when she took her first trip to Thailand. Children were unsure what to do with the bars of soap. After Erin returned back to the U.S., she pondered how simple it is to take soap for granted.

Sundara’s newest program is in Myanmar, they work with local Burmese families to recycle soap waste from Yangon’s hotels. The soap is distributed, along with simple hygiene classes, to orphanages, juvenile detention centers, and communities of people from leprosy in Yangon, neighboring Bago and Bagan.

It doesn’t stop there. Sundara believes in three simple powers:

  • Community Empowerment: Get the community involved and educate communities about the issue – lack of soap equals the spread of disease. The communities affected typically do not wash their hands because of limited resources.
  • Female Leadership: Sundara insists their employees are from underprivileged backgrounds, giving females the opportunity at leadership. Local women are an ally. With the proper training, these women become hygiene ambassadors.
  • Hygiene Education: Sundara encourages a societal shift in thinking. Its members educate and empower communities. Hygiene education is low-cost and, with the properly trained individuals, can reach large communities.

Their work shows: “In our Mumbai operation, we have trained 3 women to recycle soap full time and 26 local women to become local hygiene ambassadors. Each month they deliver soap and hygiene training to over 2,000 children. They also deliver soap and hygiene training for adults and children at medical centers in the Kalwa slums to ensure that the good hygiene habits stick.”

Old soap from hotels in Kampala Uganda.

So, How Does it Work?

  • One: Sundara collects soaps from their partner hotels (hundreds upon hundreds of bars)
  • Two: Employees help collect the soap (those who work for Sundara!)
  • Three: Sundara sorts and groups the soap.
  • Four: Sundara shaves down and treats the soap with green chemicals for cleaning.
  • Five: Sundara packages and prepares the soap with education and hygiene products.

You can help

If you’re a hotelier, save a bar of soap on your next adventure.

Donate. Sponsor a child to receive soap deliveries and hygiene education for just $30. Please consider supporting the Sundara Fund at:

Breathe. This may be most important of all. Take a moment to educate yourself on the benefits of soap (ethical soaps too) and create a conversation in your community.

About the author

Isabelle Marsh

Isabelle Marsh is a freelance writer out of Missouri with a background in nutrition consulting and wellness. She is currently writing a children's book to educate young children on the importance of eating pesticide-free foods.

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