Tom Callahan’s parable of the Fifth Monk, a favorite at The Pollination Project, illustrates the concept of “going further upstream” in philanthropy—the idea that the further upstream one goes, the more likely the root causes of problems are identified instead of just their symptoms.
And who would have thought that one day at TPP we would run into a literal example?
Ada Acobta and Linus Ayangwoh Embe both had the goal to clean the ocean of plastic waste. Both of them developed stunningly inventive projects to achieve that goal. Both of them submitted an application for a TPP grant. Both of them live in Cameroon—Ada a mere 26 miles upstream from Linus. Yet, neither of them knew the other existed.
Until, that is, TPP’s volunteer grant review team recognized that Ada and Linus just might have a few things in common.
Ada, working in the city of Buea in the Southwest Region of Cameroon, developed an initiative aimed at tackling the problem of plastic pollution in communities in and around the city. “My experience with plastic-littered streets, local waterways, and beaches in the community; my personal challenges in disposing of my own waste in an environmentally friendly manner; and my understanding of the global plastic pollution problem prompted me to take action,” Ada says.
The result is Beat the Bottle, a call-to-action for communities—and especially young people—to be conscious and play active roles in waste collection and management in Buea. Beat the Bottle encourages community members to take responsibility for their waste through pollution and recycling education and volunteer waste pick-up.
What Ada didn’t know, however, was that just south of her, in a coastal town to where the river into which so much of the waste from her community flows, Linus was diligently working on his own solution to the waste problem. Linus, a Community Development Advocate and the CEO of the Association for Community Awareness (ASCOA), developed the Clean Coastal Area for Sustainable Development project in the beach area of Limbe, Southwest, Cameroon. The goals of the project are to clean, sort, and document waste collected from the beach area while at the same time creating awareness about the hazards of environmental pollution.
Following our team’s review of Linus’s and Ada’s applications, TPP’s Grants Manager, Tara Matthews, introduced Ada and Linus.
Linus remembers the day he received Tara’s email: “It was on a fateful day, Friday 7th of June 2019, I received an email from Tara introducing Ada and her project to me and asking us to collaborate [if we wished].”
Ada recalls: “It is amazing how Linus and I came to collaborate. Linus is working to clean the Limbe Down Beach which is downstream from Buea, the community I am working to clean up. Buea, with its elevated topography and numerous streams channels, causes garbage that comes from the streets to eventually find its way to the Atlantic Coast where Linus is working. Despite our work being so connected, we never had the opportunity to meet each other or hear about each other’s work until we both received an email from Tara.”
According to Ada, she and Linus met the following day to discuss possible ways of working together to achieve their common goal. “Linus and I will work together, cleaning up and educating communities in Buea and the Limbe areas on proper waste disposal. Bringing together ideas, manpower, and resources will enable us to create a bigger impact in our communities. The more work we do upstream, the less work we will have to do downstream so us working together is very important.”
Much like the Monks, Ada and Linus recognized the power of finding solutions at the root of the problem, thereby causing impactful change in their common communities.
“Thanks to TPP for bringing Ada and me together,” says Linus. “Ada and I are already putting everything in place for a good partnership and to make TPP proud for connecting us.”
TPP is delighted to have supported both Ada’s and Linus’s groundbreaking efforts to clean up Southwest Cameroon and is thrilled that they chose to work together, embodying TPP’s philosophy of new ideas and possibilities emerging from networks and collaboration. As part of their partnership, Linus and Ada, with ASCOA, are organizing a workshop during the celebration of the 2019 International Coastal Clean-up Day on September 20th with the local population.
To contact Linus at ASCOA:
To contact Ada at Beat the Bottle: