Friday, 25 March 2011

The women of STAKEN

More awesome things I wanted to share with people on the intershed.

shred sweat hustle

Something big has happened. I feel almost for the first time that these businesses have a solid future in recycling. Through our inexhaustable networking, we met a company that started to buy our shredded plastic. For three reasons it is a big deal.

Reason #1: They come to our centre to buy the plastic. Instead of us having to pay money to hire a truck and lug it over with a bunch of guys, sometimes not even being able to sell it.

Reason #2:They are Kenyans. They understand the dynamics of people in low income areas. Not other nationals who are extremely apprehensive about working with people from poor neighborhoods.

Reason #3:This business that started buying from us is as old as we are in the business, but they are a lot more succesful. The reason being is they had start up capital. In conclusion it proves that people with money to invest are finding Recycling to be a worthwhile endeavor.

The other day we accepted an invitation to follow our plastic after we had sold it to them and see how a larger recycling facility is operated.

I really love this part of the job. We have to seperate colours in order to sell for better money. I like to imagine sometimes we are selling magical spices.

This is some of our blue plastic laying out in the sun after it had been washed. This is a nice photo because the stuff in bags beside it is the final product on its way out to the market.

More magical spices.

Now the plastic is going into a heater where it gets melted and oozes into the machine

and comes out as coat hangers!!

Always nice to see a gender balanced work environment

In this photo there are 4 different examples of stuff they make with our plastic. The bowls are my fave, Kaka is liking it. and Of course all these things are recyclable. pretty cool? I think so.

STAKEN Haiwezi Kufa

The guys looking and asking and talking. Everyone there was so welcoming and answered all of our questions.

We spent about 3 hours at the visit. You can see the owner of the business Mrs Kariuki. She is really wonderful and we talked about everything in the industry for a long time.

Why didn't we do this earlier you may ask? Well this is the first time anyone has ever allowed us into their facility. It was a great feeling to have someone who is very successful but very understanding of the company's socio economic background and also very excited to work with us.

The walk home feeling inspired

These are some really solid guys. I mean the most solid I have ever met in my life.

It was an incredible experience to follow the cycle of our plastic. It has given us the motivation to continue thinking that one day we will be able to produce our own durable products and sell them back to the community. Instead of the cheap chinese crap that breaks after a day.

We have been so fortunate to meet these great people. I really feel as though it's the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

Monday, 14 March 2011


So I have a job teaching Video and Editing to a class in Mathare (one of the places I work). It's thrilling and inspiring and I love it.
I was blown away at how sharp the learners are. They were asking me technical editing questions before I could even say "Here is the on button". Although some of the people have no computer experience, they have also come a long way. Here is the first round of videos they did. Although they are amateur, they will show you real problems real people face everyday. Mathare is one hell of a crazy place.

Caring for the community don't feed no belly

Haven't been too motivated to write on here. I prefer to just be outside shredding away than doing some talking on here that maybe three people read.

Recycling in Nairobi is hard. I want to make a list of every single obstacle that has come our way since the beginning. It would be a book and I would call it "Recycling in Nairobi and 1,000,000 things that will get in your way." Best seller right there.

With some ok funding from Oxfam and private donors, we have been able to hire some old sex trade workers who help us go and buy plastic and then sort it while we shred the plastic. It's a pretty cool thing although the women are about as enthusiastic as an old shoe. We have come a ways since the start. We are constantly being asked to come and provide training to other people who are trying to do the same business or get visitors from all over the world who come to see what we do.

Is this recycling business going to make people rich? no. We are still struggling to get it profitable.

All I know is that people like Kaka, Farouk, and others like us are at the frontlines of trying to come up with innovative ideas to provide solutions for the problems that are affecting communities.

I recently realized the irony in the situation I am in. I am dedicating my life to trying to get people some stability in their lives, while I myself have an incredibly unstable life. It's funny but I think it actually makes things work well. I think I more than anyone in some organization who gets a nice cheque every month, undertsand the need for hard work and determination to make things work. If you want things to change in your community, the only one that will make it happen is yourself. The neighbourhoods I work in are not just a place I come to shred plastic. They are a place where I meet with other people who share the same mentality I do, LET'S DO SOMETHING.

I just feel that if most of these huge aid organizations were to spend a little more time on the ground, at least getting a feel for the dynamics of reality instead of what they learned for 4 years in a text book and then moved directly behind a desk, that a lot more could be accomplished. If people are interested in working in solidarity with people in poverty, they need to stop talking "At them" and talk "With them". I love when I meet someone from an organization who works in poverty alleviation or something but instantly upon looking at them you can tell they have probably never stepped foot on a bus, or used a hammer, or once only ate rice for dinner.

I don't know why I'm getting bitter today, I guess I have a lot on my mind. The truth is there is a lot I want to do and I just wish I had a million million dollars I could spend on sweet projects that I know would be so good. But some young dude from East Vancouver is not going to change a hell of a lot. What I know is that I have enough awesome people with me that together we will continue to try as much as possible to keep the fight alive.