Liberia: 103 Waste Pickers Get Covid-19 Relief Items

Paynesville — Youth Exploring Solutions (YES), an accredited non-profit, passionate, and voluntary grassroots youth-led development organization has provided food and non-food items to one hundred three (103) waste pickers from 15 Community Based Enterprises (CBEs) in Paynesville City.

Making the presentation, the founder and executive director of YES, Attorney-at-law Stephen B. Lavalah disclosed that COVID-19 relief distribution was meant to identify with waste pickers. He further mentioned that the project also took into consideration awareness and sensitization on the preventive measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 during these difficult and uncertain times in human history.

Lavalah praised waste pickers for making the ultimate sacrifices under extreme conditions to help the city becomes greener, cleaner and healthier. He revealed items distributed were made possible through a micro grant amounting to five hundred thousand Liberian dollars (L$500,000) from the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) Emergency Solidarity Fund. Items distributed included rice, oil and hand gloves.

The founder and executive director of YES committed his organization willingness to working with CBEs and their waste pickers in four (4) different areas ranging from capacity building, networking opportunities, financial services, and exchange program. The youth leader vowed to work with the Paynesville City Corporation and other partners in making Liberia's largest municipality a zero waste city in the long term.

"We will work with GAIA to build the capacity of waste pickers in learning more about waste segregation and its associated benefits, new techniques to transport household waste, management of household waste, safety procedures, policy advocacy, and zero waste initiatives," the founder and executive director of YES indicated.

According to YES' team leader, providing networking opportunities for waste pickers to directly connect with other waste pickers from across Africa and around the world will be pivotal to sharing stories and experiences. "We want to create a platform for waste pickers to freely communicate and explore opportunities in the midst of abundant challenges," he added.

Lavalah continues: "Every day, there is a tri-cycle owned by a CBE with stockpile of garbage that has broken down alongside the road. Sometimes the repair work takes two or more days. Therefore, we will endeavor to work with GAIA to drive innovative transport medium that is energy efficient and renewable. Our quest will also be to provide long-term and flexible financial services to strengthen the capacity of CBEs in service delivery."

He emphasized that another area of concentration will be the establishment of a Waste Picker Exchange Program to provide an eye-opener to waste pickers to travel to other countries to gain hands-on experiences and specialized skills.

For his part, the president of the National of Association of Primary Waste in Liberia, J. Saah Joe Kendemah, II, stressed the need for more empowerment opportunities for CBEs. He confirmed that zero waste is possible because every trash ends up in the landfill and it was now time to attach value to waste.

"Zero waste does not mean you wouldn't see waste but every waste will be turned into something valuable and appreciable. This wouldn't only be possible through waste pickers alone but everyone must get involved," Kendemah noted.

Speaking earlier, Arthur Campbell, Director of Sanitation at the Paynesville City Corporation expressed profound gratitude to Youth Exploring solutions and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives for the opportunity given to CBEs. Campbell who proxy for the Mayor, Honorable Ethel Pam Belcher-Taylor pointed out that the distribution touched every legally registered CBEs within Paynesville City.

The Director of Sanitation pointed out that the relief items benefited 15 legally registered CBEs the municipal authority of Paynesville is currently working with. He stressed the need for more assistance for waste pickers.

Also speaking Joseph Cole who is physically challenged narrated that his disability didn't hinder his ability to start a household waste collection company known as Joe Cole Sanitation. He began his business through proceeds he earned from designing and distributing recycle trash bins from the John Lewis Methodist School situated in Paynesville City, Liberia.

The school principal then provided him with the ideas to establish his own Community Based Enterprise to help collect garbage from the trash bins to the secondary waste disposal site. Joseph further revealed that he started by renting a tri-cycle and later purchased a used tri-cycle. After, a year, Joseph bought a brand-new tricycle.

Today, he has four (4) tri-cycles with twenty-four (24) staff members. Joseph was elated to become one of the 103 waste pickers that benefited from the GAIA funded COVID-19 Relief Distribution for Waste Pickers implemented by Youth Exploring Solutions.

Duhan Chinesesgirl Barjebo, a passionate waste picker working with OCEANS, a household waste collection company in the City of Paynesville also spoke at the event. Five (5) years ago Duhan never had a job. She came across J. Saah Joe Kendemah, II, and expressed her interest in working with his company, but she was told waste picking is a "Man's Job".

However, she insisted that she is capable of being a waste picker. Being so impressive, one week after her employment, she was promoted as supervisor. Duhan is the lone women on her team supervising 6 men. She encourages her team in spite of the challenges and markets the company to many potential customers.

Despite the nature of her work, Duhan finds time for the family. She has a 17-year-old daughter and still breastfeeding her 1-year-2-month-old son every day. She says her family members don't like the job she is doing because of their gender. Duhan truly demonstrates the endless possibilities for women to succeed.

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