STORIES OF THOSE CHANGING THE WORLD
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What You Call Trash… Others Call Treasure
Nassra Nassor Rashid
My name is Nassra Nassor Rashid. I am a second-year student at Tanzania Institute Of Accountancy, pursuing a bachelor of marketing and public relations, as well as an artist of 22 years old. My journey through art led me to being an environmentalist.
What we consider waste may be useful when we think about it in a different light. Discarded items or waste provide bountiful, although largely ignored, resources for us artists to give them a second life or share their story. Items such as wine bottles, popsicle sticks, wood, and more can have a beautiful second chance as work of art. I deliberately scavenge for reusable materials that spark fresh ideas to create something new.
In my hands, glass bottles, plastic bags, and other waste items that would otherwise end up filling landfills and floating in the sea become a form of sustainable art. My art highlights the degradation of the world and surprises people with its originality. The possibilities stretch as far as my imagination — from paintings, to sculptures, to lights.
Any artist out there knows it takes a great deal of creativity, technique, and time, as well as failure. I always ask myself: To what extent is my work helping the environment? Are these materials really waste? Do those who buy my work understand my message?
The people who buy this type of art find the work attractive for their artistic value, but I want to motivate them to contribute to the planet’s welfare too. I also want them to educate and raise awareness in society (especially among children). There is a common riddle in Tanzania that says, “Ukitupacho kwake ni dhahabu.” This means, “What you throw away is his gold.” The answer is, “Nzi,” meaning, “A fly.” Artists who use this type of art are considered flies and the trash that people throw away is their gold!
I want to take this opportunity to encourage environmental conservation through DIY projects, afforestation, recycling, and upcycling. This gives one a chance to learn something new and to be able to see the sparkles that the world can offer. These things can provide happiness to people around the world.
Artist for the Earth
I am a Tanzanian mixed medium painter and an environmental scientist based in Dar-es-salaam. Lately the temperature in Dar-es-salaam has been rising above and dropping below normal, while the rainy season has been shifting and leading to flooding. Everyone has been questioning themselves on why the conditions in Dar-es-salaam have become like this. This has brought climate change more into my thoughts and has made this issue clearer to my community. After observing my lifestyle and my society’s lifestyle, I came to realize that there are small things that we do that contribute strongly to climate change. If these acts are done by repeatedly by many people, then they will have a huge impact.
On Swahili Street of Dar-es-salaam, I find different types of waste materials littered everywhere I go. Waste management is a problem from the source where waste is generated, as well as through storage, collection and disposal. As a young boy, it was sometimes difficult to play football due to the overflow of a landfill site which was near our playing ground. During rainy season, it was completely a mess due to lack of a proper drainage system for runoff water. It was a bad experience to have at such a young age, and I was not yet aware of the cause.
My work is inspired by the ongoing poor waste management in Swahili Street of Dar-es-salaam. Working with oil paints, used plastic bottles and fabric to create mixed medium paintings, I start conversations about waste management by expressing my experience. I conceptualise my ideas and thoughts in my sketch book first, then paint the final sketch. The textures in my mixed medium paintings are inspired by a traditional practice of creating pots by clay soil at my Grandmother’s home town, Matema – Kyela, in the southern highlands of Tanzania. The eyes used in the figures I create on an abstract background are inspired by the Makonde tribe from Tanzania who scar their faces as decoration of beauty. I obtained this information from the Makonde people who trained me on painting lessons before I joined the Nafasi Art Academy for contemporary art.
Volunteer for the Earth
I am Zuhura Ahmad, a graduate of education with science (chemistry and biology). I have had a strong passion for environmental conservation since then, and people used to call me Mama Mazingira, or Mother Environment. I know my story is just starting, probably at its very earliest stage, but I love conservation of the environment because the environment is life (meaning that we owe our lives to the environment). One of the most important things I have learned from my Leader is, “Volunteering is the only way that people will see your capacity and takes you to the next level.”
My enthusiasm started when I was at high school, where I volunteered for environmental activities like cleanups and tree plantings under the United Nation Club. After high school at the end of 2017, I got a chance to go to university, where I met and connected with people who shared my passion for the environment. I was sure to collaborate with them in my activism.
First and foremost, I joined environmental WhatsApp groups for the Tanzania Environmental Chamber and environmental conservation and wildlife enterprises groups, where I got updates about environmental activities. From there, I actively participated in every project for Environmental Watch Association Tanzania. I was then assigned as a volunteer coordinator of Tanzania Youth Biodiversity Network Club at Sua, where I worked with leaders of different youth organizations and volunteer students to keep the momentum going to the next level. I also got a chance to be a volunteer for EARTHDAY.ORG and I was sure to provide strong support to other volunteers and leaders in different projects of climate action. In addition, I volunteered for World Action on Climate and Health.
It’s not easy to balance environmental activities and studying; it’s something that one learns as they go. I found planning weekly schedules (with clear short and long term personal and career goals) very helpful in managing the balance. I usually make one schedule with both environmental and personal activities. I also make sure to leave time for rest and studies because if I don’t factor this in, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. It is not perfect but it works.
I have met amazing people who have what it takes in terms of passions and even in visions, but sometimes this is not enough. Having willingness, a platform, resources and the right mindset is what it takes to change the story.
I have always been honored to be part of environmentalism, from when I received prizes from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and Nipe Fagio, up to when I received a certificate from Environmental Watch Association Tanzania for showing a high degree of self-motivation and for my efforts in conserving and protecting the environment. Seeing Tanzania Youth Biodiversity Network Club moving from being a dream to being something concrete with a great team, great support and the freedom to share my journey, my vision, my abilities and my blessings with others is humbling and honoring.
I met one man during my journey of environmental activity and he said something that stuck with me.
“Zuhura, there are few people like you who study education and have a passion for the environment. I really appreciate that and am inspired.” This changed everything.
Currently, I am an active volunteer in Tanzania Youth Biodiversity Network and EARTHDAY.ORG, and I will always be on the forefront of driving transformative change in my family, friends, community and planet.
I especially encourage youth around the world to volunteer for our planet Earth, since nothing will change without caring for it.
Not All Heroes Wear Capes or White Coats
As I was growing up I always dreamt of being a medical doctor because I always thought of them as heroes. After I was chosen as a prefect at age 14, I was given a responsibility to take care of conifer seedlings. While taking care of them, I felt so much joy and happiness of seeing them grow that I promised to take my kids
here to see the trees in the future. Unfortunately, but also fortunately, I wasn’t accepted to medical school after high school. Instead, I was rerouted to the direction of what I really love: the environment.
I ended up at the School of Hygiene at Muhimbili University of Health and Allies Sciences studying Environmental Health Sciences. This when I realized that not all heroes wear white coats. I realized that the environment is the basic element for human health and life. In addition, protecting all living species and air, water and land quality is actually preventive medicine. Maintaining the balance of nature is the savior of life. With that in my mind, I know that I want to be part of maintaining life on Earth by protecting nature.
After completion of my diploma studies, I volunteered for an NGO known as Read International that promoted literacy and library refurbishment. I got a chance to engage the community and students, with whom I shared my story. I faced a question from many of these students: what would I do about climate change and loss of biodiversity as an environmentalist? So, I enrolled myself at Sokoine University of Agriculture, where I am currently studying Environmental Sciences and Management.
I volunteered for the 50th anniversary of Earth Day by participating in cleanups and school climate literacy activities. Now, I am a Country Ambassador and Leader of my university chapter for EARTHDAY.ORG. I also initiated a campaign called Eco Election Movement 2020 during Tanzania’s elections to make my country aware of the importance of the environment in development, to encourage candidates of different positions to prioritize environmental policies in their campaigns and to prompt the public to vote for a leader who will guide us through this environmental crisis.
I think everyone should be made aware of the importance of the environment and that environmental education should be part of civic education. This will foster efforts from individual, family, community, nation and ultimately worldwide levels in protecting and conserving the environment. It will help people from different walks of life and careers play their part in this. We should all feel responsible and come together for the sake of the survival of human kind. As for me, I will keep on pushing in this direction and energizing more youth for this cause.
Born and Raised Environmentalist
My name is Bella Kagisa, a young lady and a fresh graduate. This story is based on my real-life experiences. I was born and raised in a family of an environmentalist. My dad has always loved and cared for the environment so much. He always bought books of trees and flowers. I was so interested in the books because of their beautiful pictures of flowers and I really liked the passion my dad had for his career. I liked getting to know different species of plants in their biological names, Swahili names and our local tree names from his books. Going to the fields with him and identifying the tree species was extra fun to do.
Planting trees is a tradition to all of us in the family. Each one of us has a portion of flowers to take care of when we are at home. My dad taught us how to water, trim and take care of the flowers. My home is surrounded by big beautiful trees that have never been cut since they were planted. The sunny days are not a big problem since we have shades for them at home. The area around my home always has fresh air from the plants. You should visit our home once! I know you will love it. We also have a shamba, fruits of almost all kinds, veggies and plenty of banana plants.
The interesting part of this story is that I followed my dad’s path. I am now an Environmental Scientist and I am so proud of it. I am a good ambassador of the environment, since I was trained from an early age. I really do not know how I came to this field but I love what I am doing. With all the practical trainings from my dad about forestry, I learned a lot about what I can do for our lovely environment. The environment is all we have as human beings. It takes care of us all.
I can now proudly say that my dad’s life and career built me into what I am today. And I can proudly to say I am a better version of him. I am ready to take good care of the environment and protect and conserve it for all.
I would also like to invite each one of you to be an ambassador for the environment, since there are many things one can do to conserve it. Do not forget to plant a tree for a greener and safer planet! It does not need much — it only needs willingness from within.
Using Computer Literacy to Spark Change
Frank E. Anderson
My name is Frank E. Anderson, and I am a young graduate of environmental sciences but very skilled in computer literacy. My colleagues used to call me maestro due to my devotion and skills that I used to make everyone proud.
To begin my story, I should say that I am proud of my almighty God who powered a humanitarian heart in my blood and my skills and enthusiasm in computing, mapping and technology. I was raised in nontechnical environment where it was difficult to access computers. I started to learn computer hardware with friends in university. After repairing my father’s desktop, I began my journey of web development. I developed almost three web apps and repaired a number of computers and mobile phones without any charges.
I aspired to pursue a career in technology, especially computing, but faced obstacles when I chose not to study math in my advanced education. I did not secure a chance to study computing due to a lack of advanced mathematics qualifications. Although I was very frustrated, I chose to find an alternative career that can best align with my aspiration. After winning a Google scholarship for data science, I was inspired to study environmental sciences to integrate with my data skills.
At first, I found out that GIS and remote sensing are the only parts of computing in environmental sciences. I had no experience with GIS before, but I was determined to dig deeper into GIS fresh from my 1st year of studies, and it was very easy to learn. I was able to get involved in many humanitarian assistance activities, in which I utilized my mapping skills. In fact, I was so interested in GIS that I tried to innovate my own toolkit for waste management and traffic congestion detection.
Now, I can say that I am proud of my GIS skills, as I have been able to integrate them with computing for humanitarian assistance in collaboration with international organizations such as Red Cross, HOTOSM and Youth Mappers. In addition, I have used these skills to tackle the environmental crisis, having volunteered with EARTHDAY.ORG to support Earth Challenge 2020 in Tanzania.
Journey Within My Field
My name is Rhoda Chausa, a university student from Tanzania pursuing a bachelor of arts in geography and environmental studies. My journey in environmental studies started during my high school years as I was taking an HGL combination (history, geography, language).
I fell in love with geography and that motivated me to explore the world of geography and the environment. Within this long and interesting journey, I managed to learn, meet new people and organize events. I taught environmental education to students in both primary and secondary school, organized environmental cleanups around my community and led and participated in tree planting events.
When I am at home during my holidays, I mostly spend my time doing at-home activities, including recycling. I tend to re-use plastic or wine bottles to create decors for houses or pots for planting trees.
This has been a fun activity, especially since my mom just joined me in creating something out of stuff that seemed like it had no other purpose. As an environmentalist, I understand that by doing this, I can make my environment plastic free and clean. Apart from keeping the environment clean, we are also making business through the things that we make. People get more motivated when they find out just how much they can do with the stuff they have been throwing out. This also enables me to get other people involved in the fight against climate change and environmental pollution.
The more I am exploring this field, the more proud and interested I become to do and learn more. Just like the famous singer Allan Walker said in his song “Different world,” we still have time to create a better world.