July 2015 By Punya Srivatsava Colourful rickshaws are used to showcase goods made by the disabled While strolling in the vibrant and popular ethnic hub of the capital, Delhi Haat, I came across a colourful cycle-rickshaw decorated by LED lights which was manned by a visually-disabled person. Curious, I looked further and found the rickshaw stacked with funky handbags, wallets, folders, coasters, pen stands and other small utility items. The amazing part was that all these things were ingeniously made up of discarded material by disabled people. There were handbags stitched out of used pairs of jeans, wallets and folders made out of old newspapers, tea coasters made of discarded CDs and pen-stands made of RAM units from computer systems. Totally cool kitsch! These upcycled things are manufactured by Prabhat, a Delhi-based NGO under the title ‘Trash to Cash’ – a livelihood programme for people with disability. Prabhat is a venture of Society for Child Development (SFCD) set-up in 1992. The ‘Trash to Cash’ initiative uses trash collected from temples, hotels, newspaper vendors and even Delhi Metro. The unit employs 36 people with intellectual disability who create raw material like fabric and paper sheets. Then a production team comprising 59 people who are audibly, visually or physically impaired make the finished products. What is heartening is that women with disability form the core of this section. Vipin, who works as a paper weaver in the unit, says, “Having low-vision and being 100 per cent deaf meant that I could only stay at home. Today, I travel on my own, work a full day, and support my family. To increase visibility, Prabhat deploys an iridescent fleet of four rickshaws and one e-rickshaw as its retail outlets for exhibitions, fairs, festivals and family days at corporates. Their latest initiative ‘Green Thursdays’ has been well received by corporates. Every Thursday they visit corporate offices with their e-rickshaw to create environmental awareness. To watch a live demo of trash being converted into something fantastic and functional is a new experience for corporate employees and also makes them eco-sensitive. The next time you visit Dilli Haat, do have a look at the Trash to Cash rickshaw. I still flaunt my upcycled jeans handbag with great elan! www.trashtocashindia.com - Punya Srivastava
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