ROOTA: Generating Income and Restoring Dignity for the Zabaleen of Egypt

ROOTA

Rising Out of the Ashes (ROOTA) is a non-profit with a mission to support one of Egypt’s most marginalized groups – the Zabaleen. Zabaleen translates to garbage collector in Egyptian Arabic, meaning this group is in charge of almost 80 percent of the recycling done in Egypt. ROOTA works closely with the Association for the Protection of the Environment (APE), an Egyptian non-profit that teaches the women in the Zabaleen community to repurpose the garbage collected into beautiful handmade products. Then ROOTA brings these products to the Canadian market!

We asked Nevine Yassa to tell us a bit more about ROOTA’s impact in Egypt.

Tell us about the work of APE.

APE’s motto is learning through earning. APE teaches women in the Zabaleen community various crafts using recycled materials, allowing them to work from home. APE teaches these women a trade like spinning and weaving of carpets, quilts, and bags. The home producers are then free to sell their products wherever they choose. IMG_3511 (2)The purpose of these income generating projects is to empower the women to help their families. APE also helps women and young adults by providing adult literacy classes and remedial classes for kids. APE also provides health services through their clinic which provides support for Hepatitis C patients, addiction and diabetes. At ROOTA our mission is to promote their products to help these women become independent.

What inspired you to start this business?

When I saw how the Zabaleen are living, it touched my heart and I decided I would like to help them.  So the idea came to me that I could promote their products and give back to this marginalized community to improve their education, teach them a trade and eventually independence.

There is one story that I always think of – my visit to Mina’s apartment. It was very touching. He is an 18 year old boy married to a 16 year old woman.  He told me how grateful he was to APE for teaching him how to read and write.  He remembers that as a child, his dad was sick and his mother could not find the way to the hospital. She had to ask for help from a cousin who knew how to read and write to help them read the streets names. 

Are they any particular challenges you have faced so far?

There are lots of challenges working with the Zabaleen as they live in their own world. Helping them to understand the vitality of literacy for their empowerment was and is still a challenge. Explaining hygiene precautions was and still is another hurdle.

Not only are ROOTA and APE offering the Zabaleen economic opportunities, but they are helping to restore their dignity. By bringing positive attention to this deeply marginalized group, they are reminding the world to appreciate the individuals who are left to deal with what is left behind from our consumption-driven economy

You can also check out ROOTA online or meet them in person at Oak Park Neighbourhood Centre (OPNC) on Sept 20, 2016. 

You can read more about the work of APE here.

Rising Out of the Ashes (ROOTA) is a non-profit with a mission to support one of Egypt’s most marginalized groups – the Zabaleen. Zabaleen translates to garbage collector in Egyptian Arabic, meaning this group is in charge of almost 80 percent of the recycling done in Egypt. ROOTA works closely with the Association for the Protection of the Environment (APE), an Egyptian non-profit that teaches the women in the Zabaleen community to repurpose the garbage collected into beautiful handmade products. Then ROOTA brings these products to the Canadian market!

We asked Nevine Yassa to tell us a bit more about ROOTA’s impact in Egypt.

Tell us about the work of APE.

APE’s motto is learning through earning. APE teaches women in the Zabaleen community various crafts using recycled materials, allowing them to work from home. APE teaches these women a trade like spinning and weaving of carpets, quilts, and bags. The home producers are then free to sell their products wherever they choose. The purpose of these income generating projects is to empower the women to help their families. APE also helps women and young adults by providing adult literacy classes and remedial classes for kids. APE also provides health services through their clinic which provides support for Hepatitis C patients, addiction and diabetes. At ROOTA our mission is to promote their products to help these women become independent.

 

What inspired you to start this business?

When I saw how the Zabaleen are living, it touched my heart and I decided I would like to help them.  So the idea came to me that I could promote their products and give back to this marginalized community to improve their education, teach them a trade and eventually independence.

There is one story that I always think of – my visit to Mina’s apartment. It was very touching. He is an 18 year old boy married to a 16 year old woman.  He told me how grateful he was to APE for teaching him how to read and write.  He remembers that as a child, his dad was sick and his mother could not find the way to the hospital. She had to ask for help from a cousin who knew how to read and write to help them read the streets names. 

 

Are they any particular challenges you have faced so far?

There are lots of challenges working with the Zabaleen as they live in their own world. Helping them to understand the vitality of literacy for their empowerment was and is still a challenge. Explaining hygiene precautions was and still is another hurdle.

IMG_3511 (2)
IMG_3520

Not only are ROOTA and APE offering the Zabaleen economic opportunities, but they are helping to restore their dignity. By bringing positive attention to this deeply marginalized group, they are reminding the world to appreciate the individuals who are left to deal with what is left behind from our consumption-driven economy

You can also check out ROOTA online or meet them in person at Oak Park Neighbourhood Centre (OPNC) on Sept 20, 2016. 

You can read more about the work of APE here.

Big Village: Supporting Artisans Abroad and Inspiring Global Citizens at Home

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John and Liz Blaauwendraat are on a mission to share their message that “fair business relationships are the best way to effect change towards the challenge of income inequality.”

What was the inspiration that got you into this business?

We had been working with a social entrepreneur on a community development project in Ghana since 2009, and I was able to travel there in 2011 and 2013.  We were involved in fundraising, and had been investing personal resources in the construction of a school in the town of Asamankese.  We were thrilled to see that project completed and classes underway during our visit in ’13, but came to the realization that in order for this to be sustainable, we would have to find a way to use local resources to fund this and other projects.  We could see that there were so many wonderful products being made in Ghana that could be brought to Western markets, and started working on a strategy to use these products to bless projects in that country.

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The family business not only sells handmade products from Ghana, but they also commit to teaching the next generation about fair trade. John and Liz, along with their daughter Avery and son Anders, have developed a series of presentations that they take around to different students in grades 2, 6 and 10. These interactive presentations focus on the fair trade principles and how they tie in to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Along with fueling the next generation of changemakers, they also connect with students creative side by conducting a bracelet making workshop using their recycled glass beads.

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Weaving baskets in Bolgatanga, Ghana

How is Big Village impacting the world?

We use the baskets and beads as practical examples when we introduce topics such as recycling, cultural identity, social justice, and sustainability to our customers and students.  Our partners in Ghana are models of resourcefulness because they use materials that are readily available to them to make the products.  The baskets are constructed from a special type of grass that grows in abundance in Northern Ghana, and is resilient to the effects of climate change.  The glass beads are made from bottles in the community that were broken and unused.   The workers will gather them from the roadside and they are bring them to the factory to be re-formed into our beads.

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The Blaauwendraat family visiting their partners in Bolgatanga, Ghana

Visiting Ghana in June of 2015 they had an opportunity to meet with their partners. Spending time with the artisans allowed John and Liz to see how they live and work and to get to know their families.  Through a translator John had the opportunity to speak to them about how much Big Village customers love the baskets, I spoke about how our relationship with them is like a basket; each of us is like a blade of grass, and through our partnership we have, through the many connections, become woven together into something that’s strong and beautiful.”

 

Big Village, Big News: Big Village has teamed up with the Stephen Lewis Foundation to sell baskets which will support fundraising for the Grandmothers Campaign! The Grandmothers Campaign supports grandmothers and their communities in Africa as they struggle to care for the millions of children orphaned by AIDS.

Check out Big Village at www.bigvillage.ca and like their Facebook Page!

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John at The Fair Trade Show in June 2016 at Heritage Court, Enercare Centre
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Liz and John at The Fair Trade Show in June 2016 at Heritage Court, Enercare Centre