By Cara Walden, Tevel Fellowship 2014
Coming to Nepal has forced me face something that I have never thought about before. Garbage. It has become clear to me that while living in the developed world it is easy to ignore the issue of garbage because there is an established infrastructure that deals with it for us. And by “deals with it”, I mean takes it out of sight which creates the illusion that it is gone. However here in the small village of Dahu this infrastructure does not exist. Therefore the only existing solution that has been established is to either throw it on the ground or to burn it. Since being here I have done a lot of research on garbage and have learned that burning it is also just another illusion. That while the people believe they are getting rid of the garbage polluting their land, they are in fact creating a different kind of garbage that is polluting their air. In fact this is a very dangerous pollution that can cause serious harm. So in the end it has become clear that the only solution to the endless cycle of garbage is to stop creating it! However this is clearly not going to happen anytime soon. Therefore instead we can come up with ways to reuse it. With this thought, came our Garbage campaign.
The education began by showing through examples. As a group we are constantly attempting to be as inventive and creative as possible in order to reuse materials. For example, if you were to walk around our house you would see that our flower pot is in fact a plastic water bottle and our flowers are crocheted out of plastic bags; our bathroom curtains are maid out of a potato sack, and our “sink: is made out of a bucket.
The next step was formal education.In collaboration with the education team we began our campaign in the schools. The first thing we did was establish a garbage station. We organized the youth to dig a hole for the compost and then did a school wide clean up of all the plastic. The following week we met with each grade before school and provided basic information about garbage. This information included a timetable of decomposition, the effects of garbage on the earth, and then at the end we showed some examples of ways to reuse this garbage. We then announced that these examples would be taught in the coming week’s youth group meetings. For one of the sessions I taught them how to make wallets out of cookie wrappers. These are wrappers that are found all over the village and can simply be picked up off the side of the road and turned into something awesome!
All of this led to our big project, building a garbage bench! If you are wondering what this is, it is exactly what it sounds like, a bench made from garbage. We used old busted up tires, which were then stuffed with garbage and covered in cement. It turned out to be a really cool event! The kids got really involved and were able to clean up the garbage from the entire school.
Through this project my hope is that the youth will begin to see the garbage differently. This can mean that instead of seeing a plastic bag they see the potential for an art project, or they learn to not take the plastic bag at all and put whatever they just bought in their backpack. While life in the village is slow and at many times it’s hard to see the effect we can have here, it’s clear that if you put in the time it’s 100% worth it. More importantly, it’s the little things that count.