Cristina Kowarick is working with the Peace Corps and has been in rural Cameroon since the summer of 2010. Near the start of her time there, she contacted me saying she was trying to think up income generating activities for the local girls and women that would also be fun to do.
“Its always concerned me the amount of plastic bags they use here and I had the idea of using that to make things with,” Kowarick said in an e-mail. “After searching the web for the last two days I finally stumbled on your videos and then website. I love your approach and am really inspired by the creative potential! Thanks so much for posting what you do online so others like me, even in Cameroon!, can be inspired to find use for these flimsy plastic bags that are destroying our lovely planet.”
After creating her first crocheted bag (pictured below), Kowarick was motivated to take the project to the next level and teach the handicraft to others. Another Peace Corps volunteer, Rachael Saler, initiated a similar project in the Phillipines with great success (See: Peace Corps Volunteer in the Phillipines Turns Recycled Bags into Purses). And seeing how Saler’s project was so well received by the local community, Kowarick garnered even more inspiration to initiate something similar in Cameroon.
I enjoy getting updates from Kowarick about her projects there and am excited to hear more about her progress. She commissioned a local artist to craft large wooden hooks, started a small crochet group with some neighborhood girls near her home, and has been teaching plarn workshops at various environmental camps in the village.
More recently, she taught some kids in an orphanage how to crochet plarn into pencil holders. They loved it!
Kowarick guesses she has taught plastic bag crochet to more than 100 kids so far. Here is a photo she sent me with one of her neighbors modeling a crocheted plastic bag she made (complete with a hand-crafted plastic flower).