There's just so much to love about the Repurpose Schoolbags project. Founded by young, female, South African entrepreneurs Thato Kgatlhanye and Rea Ngwane through their ethical business Rethaka, the bags are made from recycled and reinforced plastic shopping bags. They also have a small solar unit incorporated into them that charges during a student's walk to and from school. Then, at night, the unit separates from the bag and transforms into a reading light so children can continue to study after dark!
Repurpose Schoolbags are made of a durable, woven, waterproof textile produced from recycled plastic shopping bags and come in bright, bold colors. The snappy, checkerboard-style band along the bottom of the bags came about after one of the seamstresses realized it would be a good way to use up all the fabric off cuts that were being thrown away. The bags are not only useful, they look good too: a universal consideration for schoolchildren the world over.
The bags also have reflective strips on them. This design-for-safety element was added because the team realized that many South African schoolchildren begin their walk to school in the early morning while it is still dark. Once the sun is up, however, the solar panel on the bag’s side begins to charge up, and at night screws into one of South Africa’s nifty Consol jars to provide up to twelve hours of reading light.
The bags are distributed to students in need through Rethaka’s “Giving Partners” program. The team identifies disadvantaged schools with students who lack basic school supplies and walk long distances to school. They then invite corporate or individual Giving Partners to purchase or give donations towards Repurpose Schoolbags on behalf of the students and match them with a school. Orders are determined for the right sizes and quantities of Repurpose bags for the selected school and then the Giving Partner pays for the order. Giving Partners and their partner schools are then all invited to participate in a handover ceremony. The first bags from the program were gifted to students in July, 2014. For more information about this innovative project or to inquire about becoming a Giving Partner, please visit the Repurpose Schoolbags website.
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Photos via Repurpose Schoolbags