Cleanaway employee’s mission to help her community through recycling
Ma Vilma was born in Bato, part of the Philippines province of Camarines Sur. Growing up she witnessed her community unable to afford basic necessities, so when she emigrated to Australia she was determined not to forget the town and its struggles.
Over the years she has regularly sent funds to her former classmates to help support those in need in Bato. Now working with Cleanaway as an administration officer, her whole office has jumped onboard to help her fundraise through the Return and Earn NSW container deposit scheme.
“I started collecting bottles and cans in March this year,” Ma Vilma says. “I told my neighbours first, then my friends, and they have all helped collect containers for me.”
When Ma Vilma mentioned what she was doing to her colleagues at Cleanaway, they immediately set up a dedicated container bin for her in the office kitchen.
“Colleagues bring in their empty bottles and cans for me. Everyone is so supportive, everyone is helping,” she says.
Ma Vilma’s container refunds help with food distribution in the Camarines Sur province. Ma Vilma previously worked with a local council in the Philippines, so her former colleagues are able to assist with identifying the areas in most need.
The funds Ma Vilma raised in May paid for spaghetti and rice cakes for local children, because she wanted them to have something special. “You can see the smiles on their faces in the photos,” she says. “And their mothers at least won’t have to worry for one meal.”
During the COVID-19 lockdown in the Philippines where food distribution was not possible, Ma Vilma instead organised thirty Mother’s Day ‘treat packs’ for some of her former school friends to give to their mothers.
“I don’t have my mother anymore and I thought they are so lucky to still have mothers. And their mothers were so appreciative, even teary, when they received the gifts as a surprise.”
Since Ma Vilma began fundraising with Return and Earn, she has returned thousands of containers and raised several hundred dollars helping to deliver 260 meals to children in May and another 150 meals in June.