"This brings new meaning to my life" -Sushma, Sundara hygiene ambassador
Sushma is 32 years old and a Sundara hygiene ambassador. She came to Mumbai 12 years ago, on her own, from a small village called Podapur. Coming from a village of just over 200 residents to Mumbai with a population of more than 21 million people was a drastic life-change.
Sushma left school at the age of 7 and her literacy suffered from that, but it did not deter her from taking on any kind of work she could get.
So she started work, like her cousins, as a servant in a household in the city. She worked 6 days a week, nearly 15 hours a day and took home just $30 a month. The work was exhausting, both mentally and physically, and she soon developed back problems that forced her to quit.
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 and lights up as she gets to teach them how to recycle soap.
Working at Sundara also allows her to spend more time with her children than she was able to do before. They're able to work on their homework after school while Sushma recycles soap for her community. The women who work at Sundara have created a bond that is almost family-like. They'll check on each others’ children and take turns walking them to school so others can work early.
“Working as a team! There is no competition here – we all help each other out. Most things are competitive in India. Not here. We care for each other when we are sick and look after our coworker’s children."- Sushma
Sushma struggled with her confidence in her intelligence, 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 she is an expert in something after all.
"Together we can do much more work. I never had that at my old job (as a servant) – this brings new meaning to my life.”- Sushma
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