Woman encourages others with eco-friendly products

18 October 2021 | Environment

ESTER KAMATI

WINDHOEK

Wilma Garises is a Swakopmund resident who turns trash into treasure by upcycling plastic into useable and unique bags.

“My parents have always taught me to pick up and to clean,” Garises, who took this lesson and turned it into a business rooted in recycling, said.

She takes plastic and other discarded items such as empty chips packets and makes them into trendy and creative accessories ranging from handbags, toiletry bags and pencil cases as well as coin pouches.

The 58-year-old was born and raised on a farm about 50 km outside Maltahöhe, where her parents worked. After completing grade 10, she moved to Swakopmund, where she worked for 10 years at a hair salon.

She then used her experience and opened her own salon, where she also sells her bags.

“From a young age, I have always liked needlework,” Garises, who recalls her mother being the first person to wear her garments, which she made at the age of nine, said.

She started creating hats and handbags from plastic bags about 20 years ago and then saw an opportunity to recycle more items. This is how she began designing bags from chips packets.

“Some of the people throw plastic bags around and I just thought I should start something to teach others what to do with waste material and turn it into something usable.”

Something out of nothing

Garises collects recyclable materials with the help of friends and family.

“Out of nothing, I am doing something to clean the environment. Everything I can recycle, I recycle,” she said.

Currently, she has a range of aprons, handbags, toiletry bags, stationery bags and coin pouches sporting household names like Simba, Nik-Naks, Sunlight and Sugar King, amongst others.

The products are available at Made In Namibia in Swakopmund or by contacting Garises directly on 081 294 6287.

She added that she is in the process of distributing items to lodges near Maltahöhe. She is also hopeful that Ocean View Spar in Swakopmund will by next month be a distributor.

Uplifting others

“I want to teach other people; the jobless youth. I want to teach them to create jobs for themselves because in Namibia, there are no jobs.”

Coming from a farm, Garises said she sees a need to also train women from rural areas to be able to make a living for themselves. She has so far set up training facilities outside Maltahöhe.

“I am in the process of uplifting those ladies. That is where the motivation is coming from. I want to help other people so that they can also make something out of nothing and be able to make an income.”

Although the entrepreneur has not been spared by the Covid-19 pandemic, she is hopeful that her big plans will one day be realised. She is currently working with her daughter, who matriculated last year.

She hopes to this year be able to employ at least two more people to help her produce the unique bags and as she balances her hairdressing business.

“With one machine, it will not work,” Garises said, adding that she uses a small sewing machine which belongs to her daughter as all her other machines are old.

‘I want to grow’

“Everything I get – if someone buys a handbag, I must take that money and service the machine and then go buy materials again,” she said.

“If I get finance or someone sponsors or helps me with money, I will make sure to build up my business higher and higher.” Garises dreams of one day having a factory. “I don’t want to stay here. I must grow.”

“I am a hairdresser and I am busy, but if I don’t have customers that day, I can sit and make up to 20 bags a day,” she said. In order to grow her business, Garises said she requires good machinery and transport to take her products to the various facilities, which are often in other towns and even other regions.

“If you have plastic bags, don’t throw away. Plastic bags, chips packets, anything - just contact me,” she said, adding that she discourages littering.

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