As a child growing up in Manshiyat Nasser in Cairo, a shantytown also known as the “City of Garbage,” Teresa Said spent her free time searching for the ubiquitous piles of garbage in search of paper and materials to satisfy her love of painting.
Now , she runs a charity that encourages children in the area to make creative and positive use of their environment by exploring the space and recycling.
In Manshiyat Nasser, a neighborhood of unpainted brick buildings east of central Cairo, many streets and buildings are piled high with rubbish collected from across the metropolis and processed or recycled informally.
“The whole idea is that these children are constantly surrounded with recycling. Why not teach them how to recycle in a way that reduces our consumption and benefits society?” she said.
Saeed’s charity Mesaha, the Arabic word for space, runs weekly recycling activities for 150-200 children aged 6-15.
In two-day workshops, the children gather plastic bottles, sticks, cardboard, paper and cans, and transform them into piggy banks, musical instruments, puzzles, or paintings.
“These activities help children connect with their environment and think outside the box,” Saeed said. “Instead of being angry at my surrounding environment, how can I do something that adds value to it?”
Saeed hopes to expand the project to other areas in Egypt.
“I dream that those children will grow to be leaders of change in their future professions or wherever they go” she said.