ERIN ZAIKIS, DENGUE FEVER, AND CHANGING THE WORLD WITH SOAP
Since she was a college freshman, Erin Zaikis has known that she wanted to have a positive impact on the world. The global poverty class she took only helped the feeling increase. At age 19, Erin traveled to Mumbai, and spent her summer volunteering at a girls’ orphanage. 5 years later, Erin was still determined to help alleviate poverty and its consequences. She traveled to Thailand to work with organizations that fight child trafficking. While there, she frequently saw pre-teens leaving the bathroom without washing their hands. When questioned, these children didn’t even know what soap was! Erin walked for hours to get to the closest shop that sold soap, and brought back 150 bars. She had a plan for the summer – to work with schools and other groups to implement hygiene programs and improve the health of these kids.
Unfortunately, Erin’s own health suffered before that could happen. She was stricken with dengue fever, a hemorrhagic fever spread by mosquitos. This often-deadly disease strikes quickly, and after Erin collapsed she was rushed to hospital and then evacuated home to Boston. After she recovered, though, Erin couldn’t get her mind off of soap – or off of helping people! With the help of the Internet and lots of experimentation, Erin developed a soap recipe that she could make at home, built a website, and launched her company Sundara. Erin now sells three different handmade soaps, each inspired by a different country.
Portions of each sale go toward organizations in those countries. Appropriately (since Erin worked with similar organizations), the Thailand-inspired soap raises money to fight child trafficking. The Ghana-inspired soap raises money to fund the construction of sinks in schools as well as supplying soap, and the India-inspired soap goes toward an organization in Mumbai that is training community women to lead hygiene workshops in local schools.
Image Credit: Sustainable Sanitation Alliance