A few weeks later, Madhuri got a call that changed her life. She was asked to work with Sundara, a new NGO that was recycling hotel soap in the slum she lived in. “I’m sure most people would turn their nose up at hotel soap but not me. I was excited to get my hands dirty.”
The next day, she showed up at work 2 hours early. Her enthusiasm hasn’t waned since.
Six days a week, for the past year Madhuri has recycled soap with Sundara. She started by learning the basics: how to sort the soap, scrape it down and mix it with sanitizing solution. Then she moved on to more advanced work, processing the bars with a soap press and preparing them for distribution. She trains new hires, has learned how to keep books and manage payment accounts.
“I can’t even remember the person I was before this job. This organization took a chance on me and I want to show them that it was a good choice. A job like this is a privilege. Working hard at it makes me feel good.”
Last month Madhuri was promoted to be the director of the Sundara workshop. A local TV channel came to film a special on her story. “I feel like a Bollywood celebrity!” she jokes.
She knows a bit of English – all of which she has taught herself. She is known for telling riddles and bringing home made sweets to the workshop. If you ever come visit Sundara’s Mumbai center, she will be there (early of course!) tying jasmine flowers to your hair and shaking your hand multiple times to make you feel welcome. “It’s my job now!” she laughs.
“I used to think that I could only give back if I was rich, when I was older, if I had a husband…but now I know that even I can help my community in some small way. We all can do our part. I feel proud to be able to help.”
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