Back in 2015, Kate Cama at Henley Business School, Greenlands Campus, contacted Gwen Powell from kompost ltd, with whom Greenlands have had a working relationship since 2012. Kate needed assistance with the emptying and sorting out of a very large furniture storage unit. A third of the building contained old style redundant metal and wood filing cabinets, many end-of-service desk pedestals, poorly stored and damaged desks – some of which had been disassembled for storing, both broken and functioning office chairs, and other excess office furniture. There were also some recently decommissioned Tchibo Coffee Machines, end-of-service dining room chairs, and conference chairs on wheels that needed to be redistributed.
The mammoth task!
Gwen had founded a charity in 2015, called CleanConscience, which proudly has its origins at Greenlands, and through this new venture she had met some founders of other charities, that became key stakeholders in this asset redistribution project.
Early in 2016 Gwen met Rose Simbo, born in Sierra Leona and a midwife in the UK since 1989. Rose founded the Kori Women’s Development Project in Taiama and she told Gwen about a specific project that they were busy with – the building of the Sandy Raffan Memorial Library, which had many donated books sat waiting in storage.
They also had hundreds of Christmas Shoeboxes, which were donated by The Brett Foundation in Maidenhead, founded by another one of Gwen’s charity contacts, Susan Brett, that were destined for the children of Taiama, but there was not enough aid for the cost of a shipping container.
An eye for opportunity
Gwen could immediately see a synergy between the many redundant metal storage cabinets, and thousands of books, and hundreds of shoeboxes that needed to be shipped, and wondered whether some of the other end-of-service office furniture might also be useful to the Kori Project.
Rose and Gill could not believe their eyes, and Rose said that most of the contents would be much appreciated, and definitely put to good use in Sierra Leone. It was decided that a 40-foot container would do the job, and arrangements started for the shipment to happen early in July.
Helping hands and kindness
It took a very kind and patient man by the name of Phil Somerfield, with a self declared “soft spot for Sierra Leone”, to maneuver the 40-foot container, on the back of an articulated lorry, into a very tight entrance. Aleks, Ziggy and Mariusz took the first shift and loaded all the heavy metal filing cabinets first. Then came Dave and Andy and they brought all the books and shoeboxes from across Berkshire in their vans.
The filing cabinets were all placed ‘loosely’ into the container, for Rose’s professional shipping container packers, Bobby, Eddie and Fatome, to fill with the books and shoeboxes, and to then pack tightly, so as to leave space for other items, such as a complete set of Encyclopedia Britannica, which will take a special place in the Sandy Raffan Memorial Library.
There were some items that were not suitable for the Kori Project, and Gwen used her social media skills to spread the word…
A young man, originally from Cameroon, were just too happy for the broken office chairs – he would use them as parts, to repair as many of them as he could, and then send them off to Cameroon for the benefit of a charity that he supports there.
A young couple were very happy to take the decommissioned Tchibo Coffee Machines, and end-of-service dining room chairs, to start their own coffee shop franchises.
Nothing to landfill!
CleanConscience were able to redistribute everything that had been stored without the need to send anything to landfill or to be incinerated, and in turn Henley Business School saved the equivalent of 45.5 tonnes of CO2 and 10 tonnes of waste which would’ve cost £6,500 in waste costs. An equivalent of £90,000 worth of redundant, or end-of-service, office furniture and decommissioned equipment was donated to charity or gifted to start-up entrepreneurs.
Rose was able to open the library in December 2016, and the local community now benefit from books, which will enable the local community to develop the culture of reading and develop their knowledge base.
CleanConscience wanted to say an extra special thanks to Daniel O'Connor from Warp It, for granting access to our online reuse portal, allowing this report to be compiled.