Melissa, a young volunteer from Chile, about her experience with freshStart
Many people talk about making a difference – but some don’t just talk about it, they do it. And people like these are the ones I met at freshStart.
I came to Sedgefield to be a volunteer at Masithandane, a wonderful NGO which serves in Smutsville, the township on the periphery of this town. It was during these three months in South Africa, that I also come across freshStart, an amazing organization which I simply loved.
Very often NGOs and NPOs do EITHER – they focus on humanitarian/ social issues OR target environmental problems. The amazing thing about freshStart is that it tackles both. Every Wednesday, more than one ton of recycled waste is transported in a big truck out of Smutsville. That is more than one ton of plastic, glass, tins and paper, which might otherwise be contaminating the streets of Smutsville or would end up in a dump site. At the same time, every Wednesday, the 250 + kids from the community learn “real life lessons” while having the opportunity to get something they might really need or have dreamt of for a long time. They learn to work towards their goals, they learn to save (mula points in this case), and be proud of their achievements, etc. Most importantly, at freshStart, they are given love. I could really see that from the moment the children entered the swop shop, they were treated with respect, dedication and love. This special love, even though it is only for a short time once a week, is giving the children what every human being needs the most. It is so heart warming to see how freshStart has a unique way of helping people through helping the environment.
I was part of the environmental committee of the student’s council for three years at my school in Chile. We tried to teach the children to recycle. Everybody knows that putting recycling bins in the classrooms and telling the students to use them, would have no other results than the teachers finding very similar looking mixes of trash in each of the three containers at the end of the day. Basically, if children and young adolescents are to learn to recycle, one has to use creative teaching methods. I have to say, that although we tried very hard to find some of those teaching methods, we never really succeeded in creating good recycling habits among the students. It is not an easy task. Nevertheless, I believe that freshStart, with its swop shop, has found a way to succeed where many others have not.
This is why I loved freshStart so much. Not only do they have loving, dedicated, and caring volunteers, but they are also making a big difference to our environment AND the people in the community with this amazing and very innovative initiative.
I loved being part of this project for these three months. Being with the kids, taking them by the hand, going with them through the shop, looking for things they wanted to take home and sharing with the other volunteers was a heart warming experience!