Extraordinary People: Turning trash into school desks

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — This week’s Extraordinary Person of the Week is quite the humanitarian. He’s the man behind the ideas of the Full Belly Project.

What may look like trash is not always just trash.

“We thought, why not try and make plastic into a desk top,” said Jock Brandis, founder of the Fully Belly Project.

It’s an invention.

“We think of ourselves as the Rambo of international development, because unlike most international development projects, where people are on the ground at great expense for a year or 18 months, we’re in and out in eight to 10 days,” Brandis said.

In less than two weeks Jock can teach a third-world community how to build and use his team’s inventions, like a corn cracker.

“You fill this up and turn this handle,” Brandis demonstrated.

And a hand-washing station.

“This easy solution was what does everyone throw away? Well, everyone throws away plastic bottles, oil drums and old truck tires,” Brandis said. “So you take everything people throw away, and you turn it into something.”

His non-profit Full Belly Project has a simple mission: to help people help themselves.

“In poor parts of the world, you’ll have a luxury hotel, and a bicycle ride away there will be people who have never seen soap in their lives,” Brandis said.

Hotels were throwing away barely used soap, and he found a way to r-cycle it and teach others to do the same. Now a community in Cambodia can crank out 1,000 bars a week to be given out in the region.

“We’re willing to make fools of ourselves, because every so often we hit a home run,” Brandis said.

And he’s back at the plate getting ready to swing for the fence again. The pitch will be made in East Africa, where trash is on the streets and students are on the floor.

“I went out to Harris Teeter on College (Rd.), got a couple big bags of plastic, and we kinda did the George Foreman grill thing,” he said. “We packed it all between two hot surfaces, and we clamped it down, and we got a piece of plastic. We’ll have to make it bigger. Our oven isn’t big enough, but we think we are ready to go in. We’re in Nairobi in eight weeks, and we’re going to set up a factory and start cranking out trash desks, and I’m really excited about it.”

That kind of trash talk is… extraordinary.

The Full Belly Project’s main fundraiser of the year is Feb. 15 at the Coastline Convention Center in downtown Wilmington. The 12th annual Full Belly Feast runs from 6 to 10 p.m. Click here for ticket information.

Know someone who is extraordinary? E-mail Daniel at dseamans@wwaytv3.com and let him tell their story!

Categories: New Hanover

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