The Trash Transformation

This story was filmed and written for Mission 360º TV by Ricky Oliveras.

Education is at a premium today. Students graduate with student loans that take years to repay. Schools and universities struggle to make ends meet. Our Adventist educational institutions are not immune to these struggles. What can we do? Faithful stewardship is how the Lord has instructed us, through models in the Scriptures and through the gift of prophecy, to fund His mission. A little initiative and innovation don’t hurt either, as Rony’s story shows. You can watch the video version of this story on Mission 360 TV at m360.tv/e1401 or m360.tv/s1717.  Rony moved from Brazil to Egypt to work on a special project: trash! In Brazil he owned a successful company that recycled electronic equipment, but eventually Rony felt God was calling him in another direction. “I have this passion to help people,” Rony says. “I thank the Lord because He gave me a wife who shares the same passion and has the same dream. So, when, almost three years ago, we decided as a couple to give our lives to help others and to do what God wants from us, we started to see what God wants from us and He led us here. So for us the most important thing is to help others and to follow God’s steps.”

If you ever visit Cairo, you might notice there aren’t many places to put trash. Throughout the city piles of trash can be seen burning along the sides of the roads. Rony moved to Nile Union Academy with the goal of cleaning up the campus and community around the Adventist school. 

Rony noticed that the wall surrounding the campus had become a community dump for trash. When Rony first came, the city workers would clean the wall area only once every two months. He started the project by cleaning the wall area every day. 

“It’s fun to notice it day by day,” Rony says. “They keep throwing the garbage on our wall. They see us cleaning every day, but they keep coming. Sometimes I ask some of them why, and they say, ‘It’s because we have no other options, no other solutions. So, I’m sorry, but your wall is our only solution.’”

As the piles of garbage piled up every day, people told him that he would never last and should give up. After about a year Rony has built relationships with community leaders, and they have recognized his efforts. Now they send the trash pickup service three times a week!

Rony works closely with the academy students to educate and employ them to be stewards of the earth.

“It’s fun to see the students come and say, ‘I want to work with you,’” Rony says. “Before, no one wanted to work with the garbage. They used to collect the garbage and burn it inside the school. That was the last job that they would choose for the year or semester. Now we have a line waiting to work with us next semester. They want to work with us. They can see something good in it. That’s good to see in the students.”

Rony has created trash systems to teach them the proper way of disposal and recycling. 

“What we are planning to do inside the campus of this school is teach the students, workers, and teachers to separate the garbage in three different ways,” Rony says. “We separate by color to make it easier for everyone to understand.”

A green trash can means anything recyclable goes inside. The brown trash cans contain food waste or compost that is used for the academy farm. Gray is for regular trash or for anything that they are unsure about. They use this system on campus and are slowly introducing it to the community.

Once things are separated, all recyclables are brought to the campus sorting facility. Plastics, glass, and cardboard are all sorted and organized for the next step.

“We press them in this machine to sell it,” Rony says, “so we can clean the community, try to have a better way to process the garbage, and also try to make money to improve and develop the community. So, that’s what we do inside here.”

Since they began, they have moved more than 250 tons of garbage! However, their plans don’t end with cleanup. Community members are not only changing their views on how to treat trash, but they will eventually benefit from a beautiful community park outside the walls of the academy. 

“We are here to try to bring some community development, to be a good influence for the community,” Rony says. “To show the community how we can work together to build a relationship with the community. To make their lives better in a complete way: emotionally, socially, and spiritually. To be a good influence over them and change some lives through the way we are living here and the changes we are bringing here.” 

Please pray as Rony and Nile Union Academy work to improve their community. Pray that they can build beneficial relationships with the people around them. 

“It’s not a dream job,” Rony says. “It’s no one’s dream to collect garbage every day for the rest of their life. It’s not my dream job. For me it’s the best place, because I really understand that’s what God wants from me now. To help this community, to understand them, to change their lives, to improve their lives. So, I’m very happy with that. It’s not the dream job. It’s not the life I used to have in Brazil, but I’ve never been so happy in all my life, because I am following what God wants for us.”

This story was filmed and written for Mission 360º TV by Ricky Oliveras and has been reproduced with permission from Adventist Mission. Your faithful stewardship makes Adventist Mission possible. More mission stories are available on https://am.adventistmission.org/videos. Learn more about Adventist Mission on https://am.adventistmission.org