Posts Tagged ‘refugee camp’


Photo: UTEC Inc.
A Massachusetts nonprofit that works with youth who got off on the wrong foot in life teaches job skills, including working effectively with others, at its in-house businesses. This business breaks down old mattresses for a range of clients.

Recent posts on recycling have overlooked one of the biggest challenges for landfills: mattresses. Fortunately, there are places that break down mattresses and recycle the components. I know of two: one in England; one in Massachusetts. If you know of others, do mention them in the Comments.

PRI’s radio show The World recently featured a recycling story from Sheffield, England. It’s about hydroponically “feeding the world with foam” from old mattresses.

“Tony Ryan, a professor at The University of Sheffield in England, and his team just did that at the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.

“The mattresses are now repurposed as a growing medium for plants. The soil in Zaatari is salty and low in organic matter making it less than ideal for farming. Lack of space and water are some of the issues that prevent people at the camp from having their own gardens to grow crops.

“The Zaatari camp is home to 80.000 refugees from the Dara’a region of Syria, many of whom are experienced farmers. Now, the foam in the mattresses became hydroponic systems that supports crops, giving farmers the opportunity to apply their years of experience and skills and at the same time produce food to eat and sell.

“Ryan says that this unconventional method uses just 20 percent of the water that it would take to grow something in the ground. The UN Refugee Agency UNHCR oversees the project.”

More here and here.

Closer to home, a Massachusetts nonprofit that works with urban teens who have gotten in trouble uses mattress recycling as a way to teach job skills. In fact, the nonprofit runs its own mattress-recycling business. See this.

In the past, I volunteered to write a couple newspaper articles to promote UTEC’s work (repairing bicycles, making cutting boards), and I’m always getting surprises about some new and important challenge the group has tackled.

To diverge from mattresses for a moment, I want to tell you that UTEC has been registering its participants and getting out the vote.

A recent email informed me, “We are proud to share that 100% of young adults enrolled in programming are registered to vote. #UTECVotes is our ongoing campaign to make sure all UTEC members and staff are registered and informed voters. See UTECvotes.org. On Super Tuesday, as on every election day, we made a day of empowering UTEC young adults to impact their communities of Lowell, Lawrence, and Haverhill.”

(Remember my post on the Movement Voter Project? Now you see how grassroots nonprofits can expand voting.)

Photo: University of Sheffield via PRI’s The World
Plants in a hydroponic system grow in the foam of former mattresses at Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.


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Among all the sad aspects of the refugee crisis, children in refugee camps going without any education — sometimes for years — has to be one of the saddest.

10 million under the age of 8 are displaced

Fortunately, there are occasional rays of light, such as adult refugees deciding to start their own school. And here is a story from Mashable about a partnership between the International Rescue Committee and the makers of Sesame Street.

Matt Petronzio writes, “A new partnership between Sesame Workshop, the brand’s educational nonprofit, and global humanitarian aid organization International Rescue Committee (IRC) will allow the two groups to develop, distribute, and test educational resources and programs designed with young refugees in mind. …

“The first phase is to develop educational multimedia content that can reach children living in displaced or resettled communities through mobile devices, radio, TV and printed materials in engaging, enjoyable ways.

” ‘We really set out to find a partner that complements our offerings, and I think the IRC is ideal,’ said Sherrie Westin, executive vice president of global impact and philanthropy at Sesame Workshop. …

“Sesame Workshop and the IRC will adapt existing Sesame products and content for regions where the two organizations already have a presence working with young children and their families. …

“The partnership is aimed at the children who make up half of the record 60 million people currently displaced around the world, specifically the one-third of that population under the age of eight. In addition to a lack of education, these children also often deal with toxic stress and trauma.

” ‘We’ve seen time and time again, in the context of conflict and crisis, that those very young children don’t have a safety net to support them,’ Sarah Smith, senior director for education at the IRC, told Mashable. …

“Most recently [Sesame] launched Zari, the first local Muppet in Afghanistan, a country where many young children lack access to education, especially girls.

“Zari’s gender was a deliberate choice to promote girls’ empowerment — an example of tailoring curricular goals to the needs of a particular country. (According to Westin, recent research showed that fathers in Afghanistan changed their minds about sending their daughters to school after watching Baghch-e-Simsim, the local language version of Sesame Street.)”

More at Mashable.

Image: Vicky Leta/Mashable

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A Syrian actor who visited a refugee camp, felt compassion for the children, and returned to help them put on a play decided to start at the top. Only the best playwright would do.

From the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, NY Times reporter Ben Hubbard describes the scene: “On a rocky patch of earth in this sprawling city of tents and prefab trailers, the king, dressed in dirty jeans and a homemade cape, raised his wooden scepter and announced his intention to divide his kingdom. His elder daughters, wearing paper crowns and plastic jewelry, showered him with false praise, while the youngest spoke truthfully and lost her inheritance.

“So began a recent adaptation here of King Lear. For the 100 children in the cast, it was their first brush with Shakespeare, although they were already deeply acquainted with tragedy. All were refugees who had fled the civil war in Syria. …

“ ‘The show is to bring back laughter, joy and humanity,’ said its director, Nawar Bulbul, a 40-year-old Syrian actor known at home for his role in ‘Bab al-Hara,’ an enormously popular historical drama that was broadcast throughout the Arab world.

“Last year, he and his French wife moved to Jordan, where friends invited him to help distribute aid in Zaatari. …

“Children he met in the camp made him promise to return, and he did — with a plan to show the world that the least fortunate Syrian refugees could produce the loftiest theater. …

“The mere fact that the play was performed was enough for the few hundred spectators. Families living in nearby tents brought their children, hoisting them on their shoulders so they could see. …

“The crowd burst into applause, and a number of the leading girls broke into tears. Mr. Bulbul said they were overwhelmed because it was the first time anyone had clapped for them.”

More here, at the NY Times, where you can also see a slide show and watch a video about the refugee-camp theater initiative.

Photo: Warrick Page for The New York Times

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