Lack of shelter remains one of the biggest problems affecting refugees. Thankfully, Every Shelter, an international NGO dedicated to designing shelter solutions for refugees, is here to put a roof on their heads. Located in Kansanga, Every Shelter’s initiative spearheads a transformative project working to reshape the lives of refugees in Uganda.
Emmanuela Zamba, the Programs and Operations Assistant with Every Shelter beams to life as she speaks about their groundbreaking collaboration with MTN.
In the vibrant world of advertising, MTN Uganda stands tall, utilizing 69 billboard sites that span an impressive 200,000 square meters during campaigns. Yet, with this prominence comes a deep-seated commitment to environmental stewardship, sparking a purposeful drive to responsibly recycle obsolete billboard skins.
Through the partnership with Every Shelter, the telecom giant contributes to this noble cause by supplying high-quality billboard skins, a seemingly unconventional material that holds incredible potential for providing durable shelter.
These billboard skins, collected from companies like MTN, are meticulously processed and repurposed into what’s called “Bashe Bora” – Swahili for “better tarpaulin.”
Together, they embarked on a mission not only to repurpose discarded skins but also to create ‘Bashe Boras,’ innovative shelter products that prioritize sustainability while contributing to carbon offsetting.
The magic lies in the transformation process. Emmanuela explains, “We carefully clean and process every new billboard skin into a high-quality tarp, ensuring the advertising is no longer visible, by pairing black and white flexi’s together, they create a material that reflects heat while maintaining privacy for the end user.
Additionally, through a creative process that distorts the advertisement, they protect the branding of their generous donors, resulting in stronger and better-quality products that last significantly longer – 7 to 8 years.
This endeavor is a triple-impact program. It not only provides employment opportunities for refugees and the local community but also addresses global climate change concerns by diverting marketing waste from landfills, giving these retired billboards a meaningful second life as Bashe Bora.
Each Bashe Bora created offsets approximately 15 kilograms of carbon dioxide, contributing to environmental sustainability. The partnership between Every Shelter and MTN has yielded impressive results.
Every Shelter has repurposed over 150 tonnes of billboard material globally, part of this are billboard skins from MTN. The upcycled material has gone ahead to benefit more than 25,000 individuals and off-setting a staggering 1,950,000 kilograms of carbon dioxide.
Nelson Munyanda, Manager at MTN Foundation, emphasizes their alignment with Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) goals. “Our policy dictates that all waste produced must be recycled or repurposed,” Nelson states.
He adds: “By donating used billboard skins to Every Shelter, MTN contributes significantly to providing durable shelter to refugees in camps like Nakivale and Bidi-Bidi. These transformed skins, five times stronger than conventional tarpaulin, ensure a minimum of 7 years of shelter for multiple families, accommodating at least 155 refugees from 34 donated billboard skins.”
He pointed out that the process not only creates shelter but also employment opportunities since refugees are involved in the production of these tents, earning income while also repurposing excess materials to create durable shopping bags, contributing to reducing pollution by replacing polythene bags.
Through this innovative collaboration, MTN and Every Shelter are rewriting the narrative, providing sustainable housing solutions and mitigating environmental impact, while empowering communities and giving hope to those who need it most – the refugees seeking solace and safety in Uganda.
This groundbreaking initiative has already achieved remarkable milestones:
Sustainability Impact: The collaboration has birthed 31 Bashe Boras using 1468.8 square meters of billboard waste, providing shelter for 155 refugees over 7 years. Furthermore, this effort has offset approximately 465 kilograms of CO2 equivalents by replacing virgin materials with repurposed skins.
Livelihood Impact: Each Bashe Bora generated provides two hours of income for a team of two individuals, resulting in a total of 62 work hours offered to urban refugees employed at the Shelter Workshop.
Shelter Impact: Thirty-one households, each averaging five individuals, now have access to a more resilient and durable housing alternative.
By-products: Additionally, the offcuts from the repurposed skins find a new purpose as they are transformed into eco-friendly shopping bags, contributing to a reduction in plastic pollution.
Uganda, hosting one of Africa’s largest refugee populations at approximately 1.5 million, benefits significantly from this initiative. The pilot phase alone has repurposed close to 1500 square meters of billboard skins, a testament to the tangible impact achieved in a short span.
This venture resonates deeply with MTN Uganda’s commitment to initiatives that harmonize with Ambition 2025. It showcases a dedication that transcends mere advertising, demonstrating a steadfast resolve to make a positive impact that resonates within communities and the environment.
Every Shelter tirelessly works towards designing sustainable housing solutions for those displaced, ensuring safety and dignity in their most vulnerable moments.
To contribute to this noble cause and be part of this impactful journey, consider donating through Every Shelter’s website at https://everyshelter.org/.
Together, let’s build a brighter future for refugees, one shelter at a time.