For our Part 2 of the Diary of a Volunteer we are hearing Valeria’s storie from The Gambia.
The recycling women of The Gambia
“What strikes me most every time I come to Ballanghar is the lovely people and the breathtaking landscape. I have been lucky enough to have visited this country straight after the rainy season when nature blossoms and the old baobabs provide shelter from the unbearable heat.
What hurts me every time I walk around the village is the amount of plastic and any other kind of trash you can see everywhere. The worst of all is knowing that this amazing village has no other way to get rid of it other than burn it. For as much as I try to collect it, I know it will turn into fire whose smoke will pollute the air and the land of this paradise in the heart of Africa.
It’s so easy to live a life plastic free in London (at least partially!) that I never realised how a tote bag, a refillable water bottle are actually non-existent here in Ballanghar. Every child you meet will ask for a plastic bottle and when the bottles are only a few and the children are many it’s very hard to decide what to do.
Just before leaving London I felt the need to find out if there was at least one person in The Gambia who cared so much about the environment to do something.
After a long research, I found her! Isatou Ceesay, from the village of Ndaju. Growing up she realised that plastic bags were useful but once broken they were left behind and bag after bag they soon became hundreds polluting her village. Then the goats of the village started to die after eating plastic bags while looking for food. She decided she had to do something, and funded a recycling centre in her village where local women create small purses out of plastic bags.
I was so happy when I realised the village was very close to Ballanghar!
On our way there, I was hoping to meet her, to know more about the project and the recycling Women of The Gambia.
The centre was lovely, we were welcomed by Fatim, a senior trainer at the centre.
Unfortunately Isatou wasn’t there but Fatim told us the story of the centre and explained that this project expanded and the women of the centre now produce soap and coal made of leaves that they sell locally.
I was so moved to see that from old polluting plastic bags a community was thriving. Every woman has a box in the centre where they put their salaries and some of the money earned stays in the centre and it is used during the difficult months to help the poorer families of the village.
I didn’t have the honour to meet Isatou Ceesay but I would never forget the warm welcome of the recycling women of The Gambia.”
A video of Isatou, explaining why she is so passionate about recycling and making a change in The Gambia: https://vimeo.com/144419980
We hope that in the future we will be able to bring this initiative to Ballanghar and create a long lasting partnership with Isatou’s centre that can help us advance the environment problem that every corner of the world is facing.