Our founder, Erin, was a guest on the most recent Rishon Global x Entwine Exclusive, hosted by Rishon’s founder, Barry Kahan. The show highlights three social entrepreneurs to hear their stories and insights on how we can all be making positive change right now. See below for a written excerpt of Erin’s interview or watch the video in its entirety here.
Barry: What was the moment that inspired the work that you do?
Erin: After graduating from college, I worked in a Thai village near the border with Myanmar with a nonprofit organization, Justifi, where I would go into schools and work with children who were at risk of being trafficked. While I was working in one school, I noticed that there wasn’t any soap; so, I bought some and gave it to the children to wash their hands. However, I quickly realized that they didn’t know what it was or how to use it.
I had lived my entire life without ever thinking about soap because it was everywhere I ever needed it; yet, I was standing in front of children around the age of 12 who were not even aware that it existed.
Soap is so simple, but it’s not universal. When communities don’t have access to soap, children die of diarrhoea, pneumonia and other illnesses which children in the US don’t die from - every year, two million children die of preventable hygiene-related illnesses.
Later on, I worked in Thailand, and I was hospitalized with dengue fever, which gave me a lot of time to think about what I wanted to do with my life. I felt very plagued with guilt that I was in a nice hospital in Bangkok, with parents who provided me with healthcare; meanwhile, the children I was working with were growing up without access to basic necessities. I felt as though I had essentially won the “birth lottery” and they had lost it, as our access to things like food, water, education varied significantly just because of where and to whom we were born.
I knew that feeling guilty would not solve any of these injustices, although it was through processing my experiences, that I understood that I wanted to do something with my life to level the playing field so that children would not grow up without something as basic as soap.
Barry: Tell us of Sundara’s beginning
Erin: In a country like India, 70 million people lack access to soap. I knew I could do something about this. Soap is simple, low technology and not a complicated, or controversial thing.
I pitched in a competition sponsored by LinkedIn, won a check for $10,000 and moved to Mumbai, India to pilot my idea. We took donated used soap from four and five-star hote