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Sunday, March 3, 2024

Bottles for Poverty recycles for change

One man’s trash may certainly be another man’s treasure. But who would have thought that the weekend’s empty beer bottles and midterm week’s half-crumpled Starbucks doubleshot cans could mean the difference between life and death for kids in a foreign country?

A group of like-minded students on campus has made it its mission to see that your recyclables not only save trees, but are a tangible effort to save lives as well.

Bottles for Poverty is a newly registered campus organization dedicated to raising money to build a school and ultimately promote education in an impoverished part of Ethiopia in the city of Gondar. Members solicit donations of recyclable bottles and cans, which they then exchange for money at recycling centers.

The group finds that education is the best tool for enabling societies to battle lineages of poverty.

“I didn’t know where to start,” said Robel Haile, founder and president of Bottles for Poverty. “The main reason that I wanted to get involved is because I always wanted to help less fortunate kids around the world.”

Haile had various ideas on how to reach his goal, but like many struggling college students, didn’t have the monetary means to do so. Bottles for Poverty stands not only as a physical organization, but also as a metaphor for how substantial change can be rendered via the smallest collective efforts, Haile said.

“I wanted to use recyclables as a way to bring people together to the cause,” Haile said.

The organization’s first project is to raise $24,000 by the end of the academic year to help build a school in Gondar, a city in Ethiopia with a 62 percent illiteracy rate. The group feels that if the upcoming generations are educated, then there is a better chance for the society to begin fixing its own issues, as opposed to waiting for federal aid.

Once the money is raised, it will be given to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee to build the school, an organization that has been building schools, wells and providing medical services in Ethiopia for 23 years and around the world for 97 years. The group has currently raised a little over $3,000.

Although most of the officers are managerial economics majors, take similar classes, and spend much time together, they all have different groups of friends and make it a point to share the weight of spreading word about their mutual mission.

“The word ‘position’ is irrelevant in Bottles for Poverty,” said Marketing Director Erica Munoz. “Everyone works together and contributes what they can.”

Bottles for Poverty has received recognition and support beyond the UC Davis campus. It was recently chosen as one of the five recipients of the Blum Center Scholarship for Developing Economies and are currently waiting to hear from other possible donors as well.

“Besides motivating everyone through recyclables, we are continuously working on finding other ways of raising funds,” Haile said.

One such way is by expansion. Bottles for Poverty is currently working on becoming a federally-registered charity. It plans to continue doing community service in the United States and around the world for years to come, but for now asks that students and community members continue using the organization’s small-step blueprint in order to contribute.

Members encourage those interested to “Like” the Bottles for Poverty Facebook page. Alexis Liu, junior sociology major, found out about Bottles for Poverty via Facebook and has been contributing recyclables ever since.

“It came up on my news feed that one of my friends had ‘Liked’ the page, so I clicked on it to check it out and found that it was something I really believed in,” Liu said. “I mean, the money from the recyclables wouldn’t have bought me much, so why not contribute to world change? It just makes sense.”

Bottles for Poverty hosts bottle drives at Primero Grove twice a month and has a pick-up option for students who cannot physically make it to the location. The next drive will be held on April 14 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Check their website for more details and information: www.bottlesforpoverty.org.

ISAIAH SHELTON can be reached at features@theaggie.org.

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