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Charity putting worth back into the worthless

PUBLISHED: 15:21 04 November 2013 | UPDATED: 15:21 04 November 2013

Jane Walker with the bags made from recycled ring pulls

Jane Walker with the bags made from recycled ring pulls

Archant

When Nailsworth Rotary heard about the work of Jane Walker, there was no question: her Philippine Community Fund would be one of its charities of the year.

Children working on a rubbish tip in the PhilippinesChildren working on a rubbish tip in the Philippines

But what particularly interested members was this: the PCF, as it’s more familiarly known, isn’t just after money. For what it also wants is worthless. Things we’d throw away without a second’s thought. Things we’d be annoyed if people dumped on us. And yet, we in the West buy these things back as designer products for vast amounts of money.

Confused? Not surprising! But it’s true. Jane Walker and crew collect ring pulls from cans, which the elderly, the disabled and teenagers in the Philippines make into stunning designer handbags, accessories and jewellery. And now, alongside giving the charity money, Nailsworth Rotary has launched its own appeal for ring pulls, which they’ll send over to the Philippines to help with that work.

For Rotary member Sheila King, it’s a no-brainer. “It’s such an easy way to change the lives of children who, previously, had no hope,” she says. “It doesn’t cost anything – in fact, there’s no reason why you wouldn’t do it. And when you watch the videos of the work the charity does, it’s so emotional.”

The story that has moved them so much is that of Jane Walker herself, the charity’s founder and now an MBE. A diminutive but feisty woman, she knows a thing or two about difficult childhoods. She left home at the tender age of 16, without anywhere to go or any plans for the future. But she was bright and determined. After simple chambermaiding jobs, she ended up in advertising and publishing, before making a small fortune in magazines.

Children working on a rubbish tip in the PhilippinesChildren working on a rubbish tip in the Philippines

It was while holidaying in the Philippines that she made a momentous decision: her life had worked out well; it was time to give something back. Accordingly, she asked a taxi driver to take her to see the notorious Smokey Mountain rubbish dump, where little children scavenged for a living. The driver refused – shocked. It was only when she insisted that he caved in.

“Jane gave Rotary a presentation, where she explained how she came across two children, aged about two and five, dragging a hook along between them, but looking at her with utterly dead eyes,” Sheila says. “It reminded her of the way she felt when she was young – the difference was, she lived in a country where she was able to do something for herself. For those children, there really was no hope.”

Jane’s solution has been to start schools in the Philippines, where children are rewarded for good attendance with food for their families; as well as a series of workshops – manned by other vulnerable members of the community – which produce beautiful articles made from recycled materials. High quality and fashionable, these items sell for far more than the £1 a 10-hour day the youngsters were once getting for scrambling about a rubbish tip. All net profits are ploughed back into the schools and other community initiatives.

Sheila is hoping all sorts of people in Gloucestershire will be equally inspired to support the work. “We’d like to invite schools, colleges, community projects, shops, offices, businesses, groups, individuals - ANYONE - to collect ring pulls from drinks and other cans to help with this Rotary project for PCF,” she says. Collecting tubs can be requested from Sheila on 0758 580 1971 or Teresa Drover on 01453 731056; individuals may take their ring pulls to Winstones Ice Cream shop on Rodborough Common GL5 5BX.

A worker in the Philippines creating a recycled ring pull bagA worker in the Philippines creating a recycled ring pull bag

There’s also a special evening, with jewellery and handbags on sale, focusing on the project, at Egypt Mill, Nailsworth on November 15. Tickets are £1; plus the restaurant is running an optional meal-deal for attendees of £11.50 for main course, fudge/biscuits and coffee, which must be pre-booked. Tables of eight-10 can be reserved through Egypt Mill on 01453 8333448. Other reservations and general information from Sheila on 0758 580 1971

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For more on The Philippine Community Fund, call 01489 790219

or visit: www.p-c-f.org

Bag made from recycled ring pullsBag made from recycled ring pulls

Nailsworth Rotary Club has its own website at: www.rotary-ribi.org/clubs/homepage.php?ClubID=2012

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