A kind-hearted woman in Pakistan has been building houses for the poor. Although she uses “garbage” to build, this is not the filthy type of garbage, but clean plastics, glass and metals.
Nargis Latif, in her 60s, from Karachi, Pakistan, has been actively campaigning the recycling of garbage for five decades, instead of burning and causing pollution.
It all started when she was on her deathbed, and in incredible pain. “I can’t even start to tell you how much pain I was in; it was unbearable,” said Latif. “It was at that time that I reached out to God and asked him to either kill me or to save me, [but] not [to] leave me hanging in the middle. I started crying, and it seemed as [if when] the first tear dropped on the floor, my prayers were answered.”
Latif started to improve, and she committed herself to fulfiling her promise she made to God, to give back to the world. So, in the 1960s, when she quarreled over the burning of garbage that was taking place outside her apartment, she realized that this is where she could make a difference. “I used to get very mad when garbage was burned,” she said. “It was also a difficult decision because my father was against it. He told me not to get into this, otherwise, I will be destroyed.”
Karachi produces around 12,000 tones of trash a day, so the sight of burning rubbish is quite common.
She then set up a non-governmental organization called “Gul Bahao” to raise awareness about recycling.
“I talked to hundreds of Kabarias (junk dealers) to bring me back paper, cardboard, shopping bags, plastic, glass, and metal. I paid them good money, and that is when the mentality changed. Till then, Kabarias were only interested in buying old home appliances like radios and clocks,” she told the Hindustan Times.
However, she was short of funds to pay the junk dealers. “I had to borrow from moneylenders at superlative rates. But the results have been fantastic,” she said to Dawn.com in an interview.
With the huge supplies she receives from the junk dealers, she turns them into a variety of items, including cushions and toilets.
After the earthquake in Pakistan, Gulbahao supplied “Wastic-blocks” that are made from shopping bags, to build temporary houses in remote places. The houses are called Chandi Ghars (silver homes), and since the 2005 earthquake, she’s helped build 150 homes all over the country.
Though there are many houses built, to convince people to stay in them is not an easy task. “People say this is made from garbage, and we don’t want to live or sit on garbage. But this is clean material, especially the plastic. It’s difficult to remove that thinking and perception,” she told Aljazeera.
Her other problem is the drastic decrease in manpower. Initially, there were 70 people working for her, and only seven are left due to the difficulties in securing funds. But she continues to work relentlessly.
“This hasn’t been easy,” she says. “I realised I had to dedicate my whole life to it. Once you commit, you can’t back out.”
Photo credit: Facebook | Gul Bahao.