The other day, I teamed up with Kelsie, a U.S. Peace Core worker who is stationed in a neighbouring village.  Together we taught the highschool staff and 170 students of Bila National High School  how to make bottle bricks. Nothing went as expected– yet, it was a great success.

First our powerpoint and movie clips all failed to play.  Then we realized the the school hadn’t gathered enough garbage for a massive packing session.  We adjusted on the fly and a bad thing, became a good thing!    Rather than focusing on lots of bricks we focused on doing one really well.   We arranged so that at least each student would make one bottle brick, packed with trash.  It seems obvious now, but I think this strategy might actually be much better in the long run!

After segregating the trash into different types of plastic, we noticed that the colors of the brands stood out– one pile was more blue, another more yellow.  So, Kelsie encouraged the students strategically layer and fill their bricks with specific colors.  In the end we had a rich array of multi-colored bricks!   I never had thought of this potentiality before.  Indeed, when we build, we will be able to craft a beautiful façade.

Thanks Bila students for the inspiration!

Afterwards, we had coffee with the teachers and staff. The sense was one of relief:  “Finally we have something positive to do with the trash”.  The will to keep the school clean, to take care of the environment, to put trash in its place, is there.  Alas, in these small villages and underfunded schools, there are no systems in place, funds or resources available to address the trash.

And this has been my motivation behind developing  the technique all along:  There simply isn’t anything to do with the trash but burn, burry or dump it.  Everyone senses deep down that this is not satisfactory. This bottle technique is deeply intentional to provide a way to put the trash to use, without need of machines, labour, or equipment.  Thus, a whole school can do it without even having a budget.  Read the full philosophy behind the technique here.

The benefit yesterday of doing just one good and artful bottle per student is that now all the students know how to make a brick. The staff have decreed they will continue this activity all the time. Their goal will be to amass as many bricks as they can as school is in need of landscaping, and outbuildings. With Kelsie there for the long term (she is posted their for a few years) we’ll soon be building some amazing stuff. The imagination of the students is the only limitation.

 

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