This is the story of young Isatou Ceesay and the recycling women of the Gambia. Young Isatou notices more and more people are discarding their plastic bags on the ground because there is nowhere else to put them. Years pass by and she barely notices the ugliness until one day she notices goats crying and missing goats at her grandmother's house. She comes to find out that the goats have been eating the bags and many goats in the village had died because of it. Isatou realizes she must be strong and do something about it. But what? she asks herself. Isatou and her friends decide to collect the bags, wash them, and cut them into a spools of plastic thread. The women spend hours working by candlelight through the night to create recycled purses. The women take them to the market to sell. At first they were mocked, but slowly people started to buy the recycled purses. Isatou makes enough money to buy her Grandmother a new goat. The garbage starts to slowly disappear.
This story has many messages for children. Isatou was "taking care of others" by helping to clean up the garbage and spare the animals harm. In addition, she spent her earnings to buy her grandmother a new goat as well. She is demonstrating "taking care of ourselves" as she models persistence, problem-solving skills, and leadership. Lastly, she is "taking care of our world" by helping to make it a healthier for her village people and beyond. What wonderful lessons we can learn from Isatou!
For additional classroom resources visit: http://www.oneplasticbag.com/
"People thought I was too young and that women couldn't be leaders. I took these things as challenges; they game me more power. I didn't call out the problems - I called out the solutions."
- Isatou Ceesay