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Recycling for refugees

A husband and wife team from Queensland are turning recyclable waste into cash to support refugees

When Delma Albuquerque began a new job as a housekeeper in a busy hotel in Cairns, she was concerned to see how much rubbish was going straight to landfill. 

As keen environmentalists, she and her husband Andrew Smart decided to recycle some of this rubbish.

And as a long-term supporter of Australia for UNHCR, Andrew wanted to give the cash to a cause that’s close to his heart.

Delma began separating hundreds of drink containers from the general waste. Each container earns 10 cents at their local recycling depot.

“It’s now at a stage where I will pick Delma up from work in my ute and she’ll regularly have five or six big bags full of plastic, glass and metal bottles and cans,” says Andrew. “Delma’s co-workers are also helping collect the recyclables. When my ute is full, I go to the depot and process the containers for cash, which I pass on to UNHCR.

“It's really satisfying to stand at the conveyor belt loading the bottles and cans, knowing every item raises 10 cents for UNHCR,” he says. “Over January and February alone, I raised $400.”

Delma Albuquerque and Adrew Smart are recycling rubbish to support refugees
© Supplied
Delma Albuquerque and Andrew Smart are recycling rubbish to support refugees.

A life-changing experience 

Originally from the United Kingdom, Andrew has lived in Australia for 30 years. Until his recent retirement, he worked in various roles in the health sector. He started his career as a nurse, later moving into health promotion and education. 

“I had the opportunity to work in Brazil as a nurse when I was young, and that fundamentally defined the direction my career took,” says Andrew. “I worked with extremely disadvantaged people with leprosy. I saw great inequalities, and how your life can change in a moment through no fault of your own. It transformed my outlook on the world.”

As his empathy for underprivileged people grew, Andrew began donating to UNHCR. He is well educated about many of the world’s refugee crises. The plight of the Rohingya people of Myanmar is of personal interest.

“I’ve volunteered as an English tutor for migrants here in Cairns and tutored Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, so I’m aware of their tragic situation. They’ve been persecuted simply because of their ethnicity; they’ve had to flee on mass to other counties where living conditions are dire. It really pulls at my heartstrings.”

With his strong humanitarian drive, Andrew is aware of the many causes he could support. 

“What makes UNHCR unique is that they work with people who have lost everything in circumstances beyond their control,” he says. “That could happen to any of us. Worldwide the numbers of refugees are soaring - they need all the support they can get.  I feel confident that UNHCR sends my money where they say it's going.”

Adrew Smart recycling
© Supplied
Andrew Smart sorts bottles at his local recycling depot to earn cash for UNHCR.

 Andrew says he’s found a new purpose in fundraising for UNHCR, with the added bonus of reducing waste. 

“It has a dual advantage of keeping rubbish out of landfill and helping people in need. The people at the depot know me well now. I’m one of their best customers!”

Are you interested in fundraising for UNHCR? Please click here for more information and helpful tips or contact us at [email protected].

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