Le Reflet (The News)
Weaving mats from milk bags for developing countries
Ever given milk bags to charity and wondered where they went? The Recycle & Reuse Program (RRP) was recently having 200 mats on their way to being shipped to developing countries.
Having that number of mats in one’s basement could be what people would call inconvenient. However, RRP coordinator Sandra Blais saw it as a challenge, and after a chance remark in a parking lot, she had the chance to have Embrun and Russell Home Hardware owner Ken Carscadden on board!
After storing the mats she received from volunteers temporarily —which took two complete rooms in the basement—, she obtained his collaboration in getting them to a warehouse in Mississauga, before starting their trip to different developing countries.
The RRP operates with all volunteers, from collectors, crafters and drivers from across Ottawa and area. Once a mat is complete, it is shipped to Mississauga to the Canadian Food for Children’s warehouse to be forwarded to Halifax, loaded on ships and delivered to developing countries.
The sleeping mats can also be wrapped around fragile medical equipment whenever needed when shipped, acting as bubble wrap.
Some of the developing countries are Dominica, El Salvador, Ghana, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Peru, Philippines, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Uganda. On top of keeping the milk bags out of landfill sites, being washable, and comfortable to sleep on, it also serves a health purpose: “In third-world countries, there are parasites in the ground that really thrive, explained RRP coordinator Sandra Blais. The chemical that is in the printing on the bag detracts them, they don’t like it. So, when somebody is sitting or sleeping on them, they’re okay. Also, especially in warm countries, they end up being as soft as silk.”
Recycle & Reuse program items collected are pop tabs, used postage stamps, eyeglasses and milk bags. Pop tabs are delivered to Clifford Bowey School for disabled students, eyeglasses are delivered to Medical Ministry International for distribution to developing countries and used postage stamps are forwarded to Redemptorists Mission Stamp Burse, who in turn sends the raised funds to Canadian Food for Children to benefit starving children in developing countries. One used stamp feeds one hungry child for one day.
“Of the four items that we collect and donate, the milk bags made into sleeping mats require more effort, shared Blais. Although dedicated crafters still crochet, many are turning to weaving, which is faster and easier on the hands. New volunteers are learning about this endeavor and are creating beautiful sleeping mats.”
Anyone interested in becoming a collector, frame builder, crafter or driver, can contact Sandra Blais, coordinator of Recyle & Reuse Program, Ottawa. Sandra.cwl.olv. firstname.lastname@example.org or 613-443-1453.