07/02/2009, 00.00
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Nuns help the poor with garbage

by Mathias Hariyadi
For the past two years the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul have been recycling plastic in East Java, turning it into umbrellas, bags, mobile phone cases and rosary beads. Thanks to the initiative, a number of families are earning a living selling these products.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – When the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul in East Java decided to raise funds for themselves and the poor, they went into the garbage business. Two years ago the Sisters looked into ways to protect the environment; from that sprang the idea of recycling plastic materials and turn them into umbrellas, bags, document file holders, mobile phone cases and even rosary beads. Their idea has caught on.

In Indonesia like in other Asian countries, garbage and pollution are big problems. Natural sites like the Citarum River are invaded by trash, especially plastics, dumped indiscriminately. In 2007 Sister Anna Wiwik Soepraptiwi, who was then the Daughters provincial superior, ordered every institution in her congregation to start sorting out garbage. Speaking to AsiaNews she explained that that since then the homes, schools, orphanages and hospitals run by the sisters have been sorting it out and promoting the practice among its students and their families.

The idea of recycling plastic material was born, and was an immediate hit. The sisters eventually set up a blog to explain their project and show their products.

Sister Soepraptiwi said that “some poor families in Yogyakarta, in Central Java, who lived in area affected by an earthquake in 2006, began following the programme.”

“We are happy and very grateful to the nuns because they helped my family to improve its finances through recycling and making useful products,” said Titik Siti Aisyah Dwi Astuti, a Muslim mother of two in Yogyakarta.

Today the programme is active across East Java. In Kediri participating communities have begun earning money from the sale of products made from recycled plastic materials.

In Surabaya pupils from the Santa Theresia Elementary School also joined in.

“We are transforming garbage in accordance with the Three Rs: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle,” said Pujanto, a teacher from the school.

The school is also encouraging pupils not to use plastic backpacks or bags, and has asked the company that runs the school cafeteria not to use plastic plates or cutlery.

With pride Pujanto said that Santa Theresia is the only elementary school in the country known in its community as the “anti-plastic” school.

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