One person’s trash is another’s treasure, proves schoolchildren’s handiwork

Published: February 16, 2013

The school’s monthly expense of around Rs100,000 is entirely covered using donations. Therefore activities such as the handicrafts bazaar take on an even greater significance. PHOTO: WAQAS NAEEM


Recycling saves the environment, but creative recycling also helps around the house.

Students of the Mashal Model School  a school for street children in Nurpur Shahan, just outside Islamabad  made innovative items for household use from recycled materials, which were put on sale at a handicrafts bazaar at the Serena Hotel in Islamabad on Friday.

Some of the items included plastic bottles usually thrown away as trash. The children cut the bottle tops and turned them into plastic “bag sealers” and used the bottom halves of the plastic bottles to make containers for stationery materials or dressing table items.

Zeba Husain, founder and principal of the school, said the children had designed the handicrafts from recycled materials during two-hour class sessions where they learned other skills as well.

Sharif Khan, one of the Mashal students, said he and his classmates had made 30 gel candles using melted wax, wicks and a few ornamental beads to decorate the candles. The candles were selling for Rs50 at the bazaar.

“We sold all of the candles within an hour,” he said, beaming with pride.

Husain, an educationist with expertise in early childhood education, started the school in 2008. Most of the students at the school are children who have worked, or are still working, around the Bari Imam shrine area as trash pickers, car washers, or snack vendors.

The school’s monthly expense of around Rs100,000 is entirely covered using donations. Therefore activities such as the handicrafts bazaar take on an even greater significance. The proceeds fund the school, but they are derived from the creative handiwork produced by the students as art projects. In a way, it is the students who are funding their own education.

While smaller items made with recycled plastic bottles were the mainstay of the bazaar, there were other things for sale as well. These included bath salts in decorated glass jars, books, diaries, paintings, painted rocks, bracelets and necklaces.

The students were helped with the creative ideas by the Cop Officers Services Attaché Ladies Association (COSALA)  a group formed by the wives of defense attachés of different diplomatic missions stationed in Pakistan. “The association has around 40 to 45 members,” Mariana Resmerita, wife of the Romanian defense attaché in Pakistan, said.

Resmerita said some members of the diplomatic community have been supporting Mashal Model School for years in their individual capacity. COSALA heard about the school around eight months ago and decided to step in to assist the school.

“It is important to know that these children exist and that they get a chance,” Resmerita said.

The COSALA ladies taught the children to make bath salts, candles and other trinkets from recycled materials.

“I was very impressed with the response from the children,” Resmerita said. “They were all so excited when they made their first handicrafts.”

The Islamabad Serena Hotel hosted the handicrafts bazaar free-of-charge, said Tania Arandia, marketing and communication manager of the hotel. She said the hotel supports such community projects as the Mashal Model School under its corporate social responsibility programme.

“This kind of activity also teaches people the importance of recycling stuff which is something we should all promote,” Arandia said.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 16th, 2013.

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