The Sisters of the Holy Cross in Ghana, West Africa, is continuing to make a huge dent in plastic waste collection and environmental education through Organizing and Advancing Recycling programs (SOAR). Anyone visiting the West African country can see the detrimental impact of the inundation of plastics on the oceans and rivers and throughout towns and cities. The burning of plastic waste pollutes the air. Plastic waste clogs sewers, triggering flooding and the rise of water-borne diseases. The lack of a waste collection infrastructure is drowning this beautiful country and putting its inhabitants’ health at risk.
I recently had the opportunity to visit our Sisters of the Holy Cross in Ghana and work with the employees and plastic pickers of SOAR. It was neither my first time in Ghana nor working with SOAR. Still, it was a fruitful visit collecting data, strategizing the following steps, and witnessing the impact the sisters and the SOAR staff are making throughout southern Ghana.
From Kasoa to Takoradi, SOAR has a stronghold on the plastic collection, recycling, and environmental education. Sister Comfort Arthur, CSC, and Sister Callista Tettah, CSC, took us to parishes and schools to see their region’s environmental education. Hundreds of students joined an assembly celebrating their hard work in a region-wide plastic collection competition. Through the competition, school classes are challenged to collect the most plastic for a prize. The competition has the added benefit of carrying education into the students’ homes and neighborhoods.
During our visit, SOAR workers expressed that their work not only puts food on the table and supports their families but also affirms their dignity.
In addition, Sister Comfort, Sister Lydia Issah, CSC, and Sister Martina Dery, CSC, took us door to door to their community partners who host plastic collection sites at their homes. These sites serve as local pick-up points for the SOAR trucks’ weekly collection. These community leaders were excited to encourage their neighbors to recycle and to be a part of an organization making such a huge difference in their country.
In the last year, SOAR collected more than 20,000 lbs. of plastic waste in just the first five months of 2022, started collaborating with three other religious congregations, and reached more than 4,500 people through education activities at seven schools and a large diocesan public event. The SOAR model, which empowers youth, women, and community leaders alike, is not only addressing the plastic pollution and poverty crises in Ghana but is a replicable model that can do the same in other corners of the world.