Just as the name depicts, Green Heroes is a project managed and coordinated by resilient and energetic young men and women of the Mathare Maji Mazuri Youth Group which is based in Mathare slums in Kenya.
It was back in the year 2010 when the issue of a clean, green and safe Mathare community was the talk of the day and ways to combat the ever increasing garbage mismanagement in the slum ghetto.
This led to the creation of Green Heroes, a project that not just any human being would want to work in voluntarily. The project was then initiated in 2011 with a handful of youth members with the view of bringing up “mazingira safi mtaani” a Swahili phrase for a clean environment in the community.
In this kind of venture; there are lots of challenges and having been a volunteer before, some of the biggest challenges we face are:
- As you can see from the above picture, we are ill-equipped with the necessary tools to carry out the collection and we encounter raw untreated sewages hence exposure to various diseases but our hearts are always for a greener environment.
- Hostile reception from people of different ideologies who don’t believe in change and the importance of a clean environment. This has however not deterred us from carrying out our objectives.
- As I stated earlier, this is not the kind of work any one would take on a voluntary basis hence there is a manpower deficit.
- Lack of morale/ motivation since some people view it as a waste of time and they would rather ‘hustle’ for their daily bread to earn a living.
A working day of a “Green Hero:
Most of the activities are done every Saturday of the week. The members gather in the designated hall by 7am in the morning to have a word or two before the commencement of the collection. A lot of focus is seen in these spirited youths as before 8am the work is already underway.
How the program goes:
- The group has a client base whereby each client has a paper bag given to them by the group so as to put in their garbage or waste for the week.
- The group clears stagnant sewages, collects the dumped wastes and as they pass by their clients, they pick the paper bags with waste.
- Since it’s also an income generating activity, the group collects a maximum of twenty (20) shillings from their clients for the week.
They sort out the garbage; they separate the plastics which generate income because once they are in bulk, they can be sold to a recycling company.
- They put the garbage and the paper bags in a designated area for the Nairobi city council come to pick. For the city council to pick the garbage, you must be registered to collect garbage. This means that we are licensed.
- At around 11am, the community is sparkling clean and the members wash their gadgets, check their income of the day, spend some for their meals after a tiresome day and the rest is kept as savings.
As time goes by we continue to improve on our efficiency as we have received donations of wheelbarrows, spades, rakes, gumboots and gloves from donors and by so doing our gratitude greatly goes to them. Due to this we have seen an increase in the number of youth members engaging in the activity and also have been able to engage other youth groups in the community on exchange programs on issues surrounding our community.
Impact of the ‘Green Heroes’ project locally:
- The project has changed the youths drastically in that some have managed to keep away from crime and embraced hard work
- The environment is getting cleaner and cleaner each day because every household covered, is left with a paper bag to put in their garbage for collection at the end of the week.
- There are reduced cases of health problems which was formerly brought about by the irresponsible waste management in the slums.
- The Mathare Maji Mazuri ‘Green Heroes’ emerged as winners of the World Environment Day Worldwide Challenge. This was a proud moment that will always linger in our minds for the recognition in the world for being young men and women who care for the environment worldwide.
- The energy and visionary exhibited by the members has touched many hearts thereby attracting donors to offering a helping hand towards the project in many ways. Some have donated bikes to ease their movements and their daily schedules like arriving for garbage collection on time.
- The project has also improved exchange of ideas with various youths from other countries on social media platform on waste management and cleaner environment.
The world will be a healthy environment for both of us and the future generation if you and I will take responsibility to ensure we manage our waste and day to day activities for our future generation. The generation is dependent on the actions we take today. Support comes from you and I for a better, cleaner and safer future.