Mon | Sep 26, 2022

Unicycle Jamaica spreads love and environmental awareness with recycled uniforms

Published:Saturday | August 13, 2022 | 12:07 AMKerese Oakley-Williams/ Gleaner Intern
 Rhys (left) and Maria Greenland, with a khaki’s from the Summer 2022 Unicycle Jamaica donation.
Rhys (left) and Maria Greenland, with a khaki’s from the Summer 2022 Unicycle Jamaica donation.
The backseat of a car full of Unicycle Jamaica donations.
The backseat of a car full of Unicycle Jamaica donations.
 Shirley Moncrieffe, acting director, donor partnerships and management, National Education Trust (left) receiving a handover of masks from Rhys Greenland ,co-founder, Unicycle Jamaica.
Shirley Moncrieffe, acting director, donor partnerships and management, National Education Trust (left) receiving a handover of masks from Rhys Greenland ,co-founder, Unicycle Jamaica.
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Back to school is just around the corner so Unicycle Jamaica has launched its fifth annual school uniform drive.

In partnership with Campion College and Fontana Pharmacy, the nonprofit organisation strives to provide school uniforms and other supplies to families across Jamaica through the National Education Trust (NET).

“Back in the second form I had outgrown my school uniforms ... and so I was trying to figure out what to do with it. I didn’t just want to throw it away and it goes into a landfill and in a few years, it becomes waste. What ended up happening was that I got into talks with a friend of mine at the time, Jordan Nakash, and the three of us, Maria, Jordan and I realised that a lot of school uniforms from students who are fortunate to have more than one a week would end up being wasted because there wasn’t exactly a perfect system in place to redistribute them to people who needed them,” the 17-year-old Unicycle programme manager told The Gleaner during a telephone interview.

Following this conversation, Unicycle Jamaica was officially born. Since being founded they have been gathering gently used uniforms to later redistribute to young teens and tweens in need across Jamaica.

“Masks still count and we are trying to work with our longstanding partner Project Hope and the HEART Trust/NSTA to make more from donated fabric,” Rhys Greenland stated. He further expressed how important it is to be able to help families meet their back-to-school costs each year while supporting textile recycling across the island.

Recently, Unicycle began the distribution of the masks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The process before distribution involves using scrap material from local fabric stores and sending them to Project Hope to be constructed.

With the annual target in mind, Unicycle has sought assistance from other private sector companies to meet their goal of collecting and distributing at least 200-300 khaki uniforms and masks.

In thanking companies who have extended their help to the programme and initiative Maria Greenland, Unicycle’s community outreach coordinator said, “With their help, we have been able to continue to spread the idea of recycling clothing and support families’ access to education at the same time.” Some of these companies include Project Hope, Ammars, Joseph’s, Megamart, Ultimate Visions, Frozen Delights Distributors, LP Azar, and Roger Malek.

Director of Donor Projects at the NET, Shirley Moncrieffe said she is grateful for the partnership with Unicycle Jamaica and that she is appreciative of the mission of helping the youths of the country.

“Giving back is an important part of who we are,” said Stephanie Smith, marketing manager of Fontana Pharmacy, adding that with Unicycle, Fontana can actively show their commitment to communities across the island.

In addition to providing uniforms and masks for students in Jamaica, Unicycle aims to spread awareness on Zero Waste Week. “Zero waste week is this concept of a week of spreading awareness and taking action about different environmental issues. For example, on one Monday we had a meatless Monday. It is about the issue of eating consumption and how it contributes to climate change and showcases meal alternatives,” Greenwood shared. Zero waste week also involves other fun activities such as using gently used T-shirts to make tote bags for reuse without sewing.

Through Unicycle, Rhys and Maria Greenland wish to continue to spread the spirit of giving back to communities in Jamaica that require assistance and support. Unicycle is always open to receiving additional help and partnerships so that they can reach more families nationwide. They can be contacted on Instagram @unicyclejamaica as well as through their email unicyclejamaica@gmail.com.

kerese.williams@gleanerjm.com