Have you ever had an email from someone overseas asking for help? Like me, you've probably had many, marked them as spam and deleted them from your mailbox for good. But one message stood out earlier this year. It was from a lady called Megan Cockroft, who is fighting to set up a recycling initiative to help some of South Africa's poor and this is what she said.
"I know I am taking a chance here but I was wondering if you perhaps know of a recycling organisation in your country that might be interested in sponsoring such an undertaking? At the 'dump site' there are scavengers, very poor people that live there and scratch though the garbage daily with their children, little babies walking in the filth. My first aim is to create a creche for these children away from the dump-site, a clean healthy place with proper food and care and schooling. The second priority is to help these people to earn an income for themselves by creating self employment opportunities and job creation. When the recycling facility is set up a number of these people will be employed on a permanent basis, the rest will be used to sort the waste into different categories such as glass, tin, plastic, paper etc. this will be weighed and paid accordingly. As the business develops we will look to incorporate housing facilities for them as well".
Within twelve months of moving to the country, they set up a small recycling business, Blue Crane Recycling, a great idea, but one that has been fraught with a number of stumbling blocks. However, no matter how tough, Megan's journey has forged her inspiration to set up an enterprise that will help others who are in greater need than her.
"We initially got the business off the ground and started working," Megan told me, "but seven months later we had a terrible fire at our work premises and nearly lost everything. Our local municipality granted us permission to move the business to the local dumpsite and subsequently gave us a five year contract to process and recycle the entire town's waste on condition we got the neccessary permit". Following the change of location, Megan has been a regular visitor to the dumpsite and this is how she learned of the local people's desperate plight.
I asked Megan what kind of support she needs.
"To start with we need about R150 000 (roughly £13,000). This is mostly for the purchase of 2 LDV's which is crucial given the demographics of our town and distance to point of sale (210 km). Fencing is also needed to enclose the area we work in so as to contain the garbage as well as basic equipment for the sorters, namely spades, wheelbarrows etc". For equipment and machinery etc, we require a further R200 000 (£17,500) The sooner we can get operational the sooner everyone can start earning an income and improving their lives.
There is great scope for this project and once fully functional Blue Crane Recycling will be able to process cardboard, paper, mixed plastics and glass, putting an end to it being buried or illegally burnt on the dumpsite.
I am aware of a couple of organisations with whom I can put Megan in touch, but I know there are many readers of this blog who have greater knowledge than me about international fundraising for children and families in such poverty as well as contacts in recycling organisations that might be able to help. Just sharing this story via Twitter or Facebook could even help.
If you have any ideas or connections with a recycling organisation that might be keen to get involved with social enterprise projects or are even considering investing in businesses overseas, Megan would be delighted to hear from you. Her contact details are firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you so much in advance for anything you can do.
ADDENDUM, 15 Sept 2010: If anyone wants to make an individual donation, Megan has just informed me of the account details for the ACVV charity branch that is local to her, where direct transfers can be made. All monies will be managed by the ACVV charity, but you need to reference any donation with BCRECYCLING to ensure the funds are allocated to this project. Megan will keep us up-to-date with how much is raised and how the project is progressing.
Account Name: ACVV Somerset OOS
Branch Code 334418
Account no: 2200140004
This post was compiled during National Zero Waste Week 2010, whilst I was blogging from Saints Cafe in Bury St Edmunds about their fabulous ides to help minimise food waste. The Blue Crane Recycling project was never far from my mind and what struck me this week was the statistic that an average family wastes £50 per month, throwing away food that could have otherwise been used if it was stored or managed properly. It's blue sky thinking but what if all that money could be used to help level the imbalance of poverty instead of food that's left to rot in landfill? It just highlights that the food waste problem in the UK is not just an environmental problem, it's a wasted opportunity to help alleviate poverty too.