In Lawrence, a plastic bag on the street is litter. In Ghana, that same bag is a weapon to fight poverty. A new student group, Nourish International KU, is teaming up with students from the University of New Mexico and ABAN, an organization that helps single, teenage mothers in Accra, Ghana, to turn discarded plastic bags into a fabric they can use to make products and money.
Adam Nicholson, the founder of Nourish International KU and a junior from Lawrence, said that ABAN’s work helps both the women and the environment.
“They don’t have a lot of clean water, so they buy it in these plastic bags,” Nicholson said. The bags usually just get discarded, thrown out. They just sit around and collect germs and make for a not very nice environment.”
The women turn these bags into purses, wallets and beads for bracelets, which club members have been selling in Lawrence this month. The money raised will be used to improve the ABAN workshop in Accra, where student volunteers plan to build an outdoor, covered work area this summer. The workshop will serve as a cooler work place during the hot summer months and give the women more space to work. Members also hope to install a new clay oven so the women can make more beads.
If Nourish International can raise extra money, members will clean up a piece of land owned by ABAN to plant a garden and buy small farm animals, which would give the female workers an extra source of food and income.
It’s really giving them a way to transition out of poverty, because poverty is such a cyclical trap. This is a way to kind of break that trap. It allows for better education for their children, better nutrition – Nicole Lawson (Senior from Shawnee)
The student group is currently raising money for a giving challenge with 14 Nourishment International chapters throughout the United States. The University has raised $825, and is in sixth place. Lawson, the ventures director for the group said the Nourish International’s fundraising efforts will continue next month with a three-against-three basketball tournament and a March Madness bracket contest.
The group has already sold several shipments of the bracelets, but the bracelets are still available from the organization’s Facebook page, along with information about donations. Jen Adams, a sophomore from Overland Park, bought one of the bracelets made by female workers earlier this month.
“It was cute, and I liked that there was a meaning behind it,” Adams said.
— Edited by Caroline Kraft