A few months back I heard about an amazing South African invention that fills an essential need for young children – not only does it give them a school bag, it also provides them with a safe lighting solution by which they can do their homework. As you know one of the biggest social challenges South African’s are facing at the moment is load shedding and rural communities are the hardest hit due to the unsafe lighting sourcing they use like open flames and paraffin.
This brilliant young lady, now just 22, was concerned about the societal problems facing children especially the lack of basic school materials and no source of light by which to study at night. In addition, she was also concerned about the plastic pollution which was a big problem where she grew up in the township of Mogwase, just outside Rustenburg. Both of these concerns led to her creating a repurposed school bag, made from recycled and reinforced plastic shopping bags with a pouch on the top to hold a Consol solar jar lid which then gets powered while the learners walk to and from school so that when the children get home their Consol jars provide light for the entire home and for them to study for between 6-8 hours!
These incredible backpacks, which only cost R250 each, also have reflectors on them so that the children are more visible at night. How genius! It’s no wonder her incredible initiative even got the likes of Bill Gates talking on Twitter!
What makes Thato’s story even better is that the Rethaka factory in Rustenburg currently employs 17 full time staff members and, in order to achieve their goal of creating 10 000 repurposed school bags by the end of 2015, Rethaka are hoping to increase their staff compliment to 20 by the end of the year!
To find out more about Rethaka, what this video where Thato explains the manufacturing process of these repurposed bags.
I think you’ll agree with me when I say that the future of South Africa looks bright with incredible young leaders like Thato making a difference like this. Thato truly represents the industrious and creative spirit that Unilever hopes to inspire with the brightFuture campaign, wouldn’t you agree?
The good news is that Unilever want us all to celebrate #brightFutureSA and they have given me R2500 to give away to someone who YOU nominate as a young leader who has inspired YOU through their commitment to sustainability and improving the lives of ordinary South Africans through their innovative ideas and dedication to see the possibilities and get involved in making a difference.
Nominate your favourite young person by leaving a comment below and I’ll choose the winner from these suggestions. The nominated person will receive a R2 500 donation to their sustainability initiative and if you were the one who nominated them you will receive a Unilever product hamper! Ends Friday 28 Aug 2015.
brightFuture is a global initiative by Unilever. The aim of the campaign is to celebrate Young Leaders in various fields in South Africa and around the world, with a special focus on those who are creating creative solutions to the world’s challenges! The brightFuture website is a great hub for people who are keen to get involved, be inspired and take action in small ways in their daily lives to make a difference to others.
Images: Unilever & Consol