Urban Gardens and Repurposed Waste Materials Create New Opportunities for Street Youth

by | May 27, 2022 | Heartivist Of The Week

Wairimu Mwangi, an inspiring woman with a love for sustainability and desire to design a balanced life, developed an incredible project that is changing the lives for street youth in the urban areas of Nairobi. In teaching youth and those living in informal settlements how to create food gardens in their spaces and repurpose waste materials, she is helping them to care for themselves and produce beautiful products which may be sold to generate income. This exceptional illustration of a circular economy is uplifting these creative youth. 

Growing up mostly in an urban area, Wairimu’s and her family grew their own food, repurposed materials to create pieces in their home and used their imagination to develop original games. This holistic way of living allowed her to feel connected to her environment, a higher purpose and those around her in a meaningful way. Today, she is working to bring that sense of connection, wholeness, healthy living and creativity to many communities. 

“By and by, we are becoming disconnected. We are earning more money but getting more mentally unstable, stressed, and generally unhappy. We are becoming removed from what is natural to us, from nature, from each other,” said Wairimu.  

​​Drawing upon her childhood and love for taking one thing and creating another, Wairimu launched a pilot program that repurposed glass bottles, cutting them into drinking glasses and candle holders. The youth she worked with were so inspired that the creativity just poured out of them. 

The success of that program ignited a desire within Wairimu to continue this work, so she submitted a proposal to The Pollination Project. When her initial proposal was denied, she decided to revise her idea and place greater focus on growing food, especially indigenous varieties which are more adaptable, resilient and highly nutritious, and using waste recovery to create products that would generate income. This time, she received the grant.

“Oh my goodness,” she laughs, “When TPP gave us a green light, when we got the grant, I did the happiest dance ever and felt highly validated. The validation of someone saying, “You’re on to something,” was humbling and energizing.”

There were challenges as she worked to bring her project to life, one of which was time. Many street youth work for wages meaning they are not fully employed. So, for example, if they got a call from someone who had some work for them right then and there, they would leave before they’d finished their learning; however, Wairimu found a balance. She began training those that were available and then the ones she trained would meet with other young people when they had time and they would train them. Time and again, she would overcome obstacles and find ways to engage youth.

Wairimu has trained over 100 youth, including teen mothers and young children, on how to grow seedlings, create income, develop vertical gardens using recycled plastic bottles and use waste materials to create beautiful planters. Many youth and children have now learned how to grow  food vertically so as to avoid contamination. 

When it comes to creatively repurposing materials such as fabric from construction sites and plastic bottles, Wairimu teaches youth to create many things. They truly enjoy being creative and savor the ability to turn something seen as waste into stunning products that generate income.  

In looking to the future, Wairimu hopes to bring her program into more centers and help the homeless, children’s homes, people living with disabilities and many more to grow their own food and sell their own unique products. As she reaches new communities, she creates even more opportunities for marginalized people to build a balanced lifestyle that includes caring for oneself, the environment and others in a sustainable way. 


🌟 Empowering Through Play! 🌟

Nature Trust (Tamilnadu, India) launched the project, "Enhance the Skills of Children with Disabilities through Play," supported by one of our seed grants 🎉✨ Timed with World Autism Awareness Day 2024, this initiative resonates with the theme of "Empowering the Autistic Voices."

In particular, the grant allowed Nature Trust to provide specially curated play materials to 20 remarkable children with diverse disabilities. These tools were thoughtfully selected to ignite their development and unlock their potential. 🧩🎨

At the distribution event held on March 31st, the atmosphere was filled with joy as children and parents expressed gratitude for the newfound importance of play in their lives. 💖👦👧 The presence of local leaders underscored the significance of inclusive initiatives like this one.

Beyond distribution, Nature Trust volunteers engaged with the children, creating lasting connections and memories. 🤝 

Through the power of play, Nature Trust is fostering a more inclusive world where every child has the opportunity to thrive and reach their full potential. 🌈 

Let's continue spreading joy and empowerment through play! 

#EmpowerThroughPlay #InclusiveCommunities 🌟 
#childrenwithdisabilities #autism #supportchildren #kindness #heartivism #India
It's Volunteer Month! 🌟 🌟 🌟 Today we celebrate our grant advisors working on Economic Development focus area.

By meticulously selecting projects for our seed grants, they're not just funding ideas—they're empowering communities and sparking transformative change. 

Join us in celebrating their invaluable efforts and the positive impact they're creating together!

🔸 Eric Anorrey (Ghana)
🔸 Mariam Nakiryowa (Uganda)
🔸 Jean-Marie Zihalirwa (DRC)
🔸 Emily Logiron Asekon (Kenya)
🔸 Georgia Bernbaum (USA) 
🔸 Herve Tsoala Kuete (Cameroon)
🔸 Jackson Bizimungu (Rwanda)
🔸 Okumu Dickson (Uganda)
🔸 Samuel Litunya (Kenya)


#volunteermonth #volunteer #heartivism #economicdevelopment #change #empoweringcommunities
The Green Earth Initiative (#Cameroon) is a project dedicated to educating and empowering students about climate change, sustainable development, and environmental challenges, that has received a seed grant from The Pollination Project in 2023. With a focus on fostering environmental protection and conservation, the initiative establishes Eco-clubs and Environment Clubs in schools, providing students with the tools to learn, engage, and take action in their communities.

Since receiving the grant from TPP, the Green Earth Initiative has expanded its reach, now encompassing 9 additional schools across two regions/cities, surpassing its initial goal of 5. 
This expansion was made possible by the overwhelming interest from school authorities and the growing number of volunteers and team members.

Through the support of TPP and other partners, the project's environmental education programs, awareness campaigns, and initiatives have impacted over 8000 students in two cities of Cameroon. Additionally, the initiative has planted over 600 trees, launched 5 Environment/Eco Clubs, and distributed over 150 adapted waste bins produced from recycled plastics, contributing to proper waste management practices.

The seed grant from The Pollination Project has been instrumental in catalyzing the growth and success of the Green Earth Initiative, enabling it to make a tangible difference in the lives of students and communities, while fostering a culture of environmental stewardship and sustainability. 

#environmentprotection #seedgrant #heartivism #environmentaleducation