How Some Scrap And A Strong Will Can Make A Difference

Dr Shambavi Rajagopal, 53, a woman filled with compassion and passion started a very simple yet innovative initiative on her own roughly four years ago without knowing that one day it won’t only bring a purpose to the lives of many but will also create an impact across the globe. 

One ordinary day, as Dr. Shambavi Rajagopal, who had just finished her PhD, visited her tailor, and on seeing a pile of waste cloth at the shop asked him, “Where does it all go?”, the answer was quite obvious - “to landfill.”

That day Dr Shambavi Rajagopal came back home with an unsettling thought on what can be done with the scrap. She knew she could not do it alone, so she made a WhatsApp group, added some people from her building to it, explained her idea to them and the same evening, the project began.

Now some four years after the social crusade began, a collective group of more than 200 men, women and teens have recycled 5 tonnes of scrap material collected from various tailors and boutiques across the UAE and have donated over 10,000 sheets, bags and pillows to the needy across the globe through their charity partner Emirates Red Crescent.

We met Dr Shambavi Rajagopal to find out more about her journey on a path where some selfless souls march ahead boldly to give back to society and achieve a sense of fulfilment: How Did You Begin With Charity Work?
The day I sent the message to the WhatsApp group explaining how we can save the scrap, we were five people ready with roughly 5 kilograms of scrap material with us. We started sorting, cutting, sewing. I had one idea that I want to make things of utility which anyone can use. So we started making sheets, bags and pillows, which only need threads and our own machines.

We do not want to make dresses which would need more skills, and extra material costs, and will also intimidate people who don’t know how to sew to look at our social media pages and get demotivated that they cannot do it.

How Did You Get More People To Join You?

I made a Facebook page and started to add posts on our work on every day basis. And that’s how I started to get in touch with various women groups, and we got calls from mums, so many senior citizens who come here on visit, wanted to keep themselves occupied. We also got our website made in February 2016, where people send us requests to join our buddy programs, and we also update each and everything we create and donate to keep the process as transparent as we can. 

Did You Ever Think Of Monetising The Project?

It is a low cost model, and since beginning only I decided that whatever we will make, we want to give away. I do get offers from companies, but we do not entertain those offers. The thought is clear when people need a sheet, we want to give them sheets and not money instead. We are so many people working and sharing same passion about the project, the day money is involved, there will be a conflict. 

How Did You Partner With Emirates Red Crescent?

Everyone used to scare me that you are doing something and no one knows about it, you may get in trouble for that. So, one day I took a sheet, bag and pillow and went to Islamic Affair Department, and told them what we are doing it and making it from scrap. We do not sell anything. Their response was “ok good.” When I insisted that we are looking for some kind of official approval, she gave me a list of charities and asked me to obtain a license from any of them. That’s how we got in touch with officials from Emirates Red Crescent who issued us a license and renew it every three months. The process was very smooth and did not involve any cost at all. 

How Do You Source The Scrap Material?

Whosoever joins the group can source it from any boutique they know. We cannot cope with huge amounts of scrap as we do not have space to store the scrap. So even when you have 5 kilograms of scrap, it takes two months to use the scrap and build things out of it. Roughly, we are in contact with 15 boutiques and tailoring shops but we are not limited to those.

What Kind Of Costs Do You Bear Running The Project?

It’s not a lot. Sometimes transportation costs from going to the host’s house in Dubai or other Emirates, and thread and label-making costs. We encourage people to make groups and meet once a week at a place within walkable distance from their houses, so they do not spend money on transportation. Then we have a website, which my brother sponsors as part of his contribution to the project.

How Can Anyone Join The Initiative?

Send us a message through our Facebook page Save Scrap and Sew @SSSbuddies or our website www.savescrapnsew.com and we will make sure that we get in touch with interested people and make them a part of the process.

Can People Who Don’t Know How To Sew Join?

There are no conditions, anyone with a will to contribute can join it. They can cut, iron and can learn sewing with us from us. They only need to bring along their will to serve. If you are interested in finding our more about Save Scrap and Sew visit www.savescrapnsew.com

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