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Waste Not, Want Not (Issue 27)

Sometimes I feel as if I’ve graduated from a Recycling 101 class… and with flying colours. I work in a trauma hospital in Cambodia’s second biggest city. No, I’m not a doctor or a nurse; I’ve started a crafts programme to help with patients’ psychological recovery. Because of where I am, and because the project isn’t funded by the hospital, I’ve needed to find ways to make it sustainable and cost-effective. And sustainability also means it’s important that it doesn’t cause any harm to the community we live amongst. That’s one reason the Hollander Critter papermaking machine we started using in our project last year has been so valuable.

But there’s another reason this machine has proven so valuable. By using it, we’re able to make something out of nothing. I find this very satisfying, and it turns out I’ve been able to role-model this for those with whom I interact and work daily – almost without exception, the patients here struggle to find enough money to pay their hospital bills, adding considerably to the stress of being a long-term patient. By watching the project and participating as they’re able, people can discover that there are useful resources all around us – we just need to change the way we view things!

“One man’s trash…”

The world around us starts to look different when we have this change of perspective. Here’s some examples from the paper project:

  • Pages coloured in and thrown away by children in the hospital become the base of the fabric pulp for our paper making

  • Pre-loved cotton that started its days as clothing, bedding, towels or tiny bits of fabric of no use for our “Days for Girls” (org) project become essential elements for the paper

  • A tailor’s scraps of traditional Khmer silk and lace become trimmings for the cards we make

  • Small pieces of silk fabric and offcuts of traditional Khmer scarves become a source of colour and texture for plain paper

  • Husks discarded by the man who makes sugarcane juice are rescued from the roadside and are turned into paper as well

  • Leftover coconut husks from a foot massage project which uses coconut oil products made by the staff become valuable for adding texture

  • Discarded banana tree trunks can also be used to make paper of a tissue-paperlike consistency

  • Pieces of handmade paper too small to be made into greeting cards become gift cards to complement the bigger cards we make


I’m not just involved with papermaking. Another thing I do is operate a small mobile library. This warms my librarian’s heart as I can put books into the hands of many who don’t normally have the opportunity to read. The trolley I use to distribute the books was cobbled together from old IV drip stands and other scrap metal from retired hospital equipment! I found what I needed in a shop, photographed it, showed it to the maintenance team and bingo! A week later I had my very own recycled trolley . It works a treat!

Many patients have benefitted from donations of retired reading glasses from an optometrist in Melbourne. The two most common reasons I’m given when asking patients if they want to borrow a book are “Knyom ot jeh arn” (I don’t know how to read) and “Knyom ot merl kern” (I can’t see). While we can’t help with the first problem, the donated glasses go a long way towards helping people who otherwise couldn’t read the books I offer.

And so the various aspects of my project inter-connect and I’m able to use leftovers from one part of the programme, or from another hospital department, in some other way. A smile crosses my face when I reflect on how I’m making a difference in the lives of patients who have met tragedy in their lives. That’s what I came to do. It’s doubly satisfying to know I’m also modelling good practice in reusing resources while being a responsible steward of what God has provided. God can indeed do amazing things with very little and I’m both honoured and humbled to be the vessel he’s using in this place at this time.

Anne and her husband Anthony are NZCMS Mission Partners serving patients in a Cambodian hospital.

 

For discussion

In what ways is God challenging you to ‘change the way you see’?

Is there anything from your daily life that could be recycled in a creative way rather than going into land-fill?