HandyGirlsYYC is making a difference. This Calgary based group believes in giving back to the community. With group motto of living a simple life, using your imagination and building your future, this group of empowered young women are using “Handy person skills” to build furniture from recycled materials for newcomers to Canada.
This week Zero Waste Canada speaks with Riti Leon about HandyGirlsYYC.
How did you decide on the name HandyGirlsYYC?
It just came to me and I thought it was cute since most of my team leaders are women, however we do have men helping in the project as well, so don’t let the name deter any men from volunteering with us!
Why did you decide to form HandyGirlsYYC?
Creating handcrafted items was part of my childhood back in Venezuela. My grandma, my mom, and a few of my aunts are skilled in sewing and knitting, so I grew up seeing this as a part of our life, and I experienced how it brings a sense of joy and satisfaction to create something for yourself or others. As for myself, I’ve made my own clothing, and little dolls made out of cornstarch dough.
The reason I created HandyGirlsYYC was to feel connected again with a community like that, and to provide an example to others of being able to have nice things in your home without a lot of money. Also to feel inspired, have a sense of pride, and to pay it forward to new Canadians and low income families by provide simple and repurposed items for their homes.
As friends did you know each other before coming to Canada?
No, we all met through the downtown community and mutual friends.
What countries are the HandyGirlsYYC members from?
Venezuela, Mexico, Thailand, Eretria, China, and Canada
How did you decide to build pallet furniture?
Pallets are everywhere and using recycle materials as much as possible is part of our mission.
You have a goal to build 10 couches and bed frames for recycled materials. Have you been able to find the recycled materials that you need for the project? If not what do you need?
Yes, I got a sponsor, Re-Matt Calgary (http://www.re-matt.com), who recycles mattresses throughout Alberta. The foam and the cotton for the couch cushions come from the mattresses and the pallets (Box spring base) are for the couch and bed frames. We still need fabric (which needs to be new/unused), as well as paint.
We are also moving into making coffee tables with old tires and pallets; we are in need of glass for the coffee table tops (preferably recycled glass) and old rope and additional power tools, gloves, safety glasses.
Your goal to build furniture allows families to choose their own designs and even help with the building if they want to, do you see this as empowering people and would help build community?
Yes, the intention is to get the families involved in the process, learn a new skill, meet new people and contribute to their new community. Building not only your own furniture, but also to help build furniture for others can help people feel purposeful and have a sense of belonging to something bigger than themselves.
How do you plan to reach families or people who may need furniture?
Currently I have been in meetings with the Syrian Refugee Support Group (http://www.yycsyr.ca/, https://www.facebook.com/groups/YYCSYR/ ), specifically with Sam Nammoura (the group leader) and a few other volunteers in the group. We are working together to understand the needs of new immigrants, who are living in small spaces and in rental properties, so that HandyGirlsYYC are able to meet their needs with our projects.
What skills and crafts did you learn growing up?
I learned resourcefulness, as well as sewing and cooking.
As someone growing up in another country do you see things you learned about as a child that you could teach people who have grown up in Calgary?
Sewing is one of the skills I bring to this project. I am also learning to use power tools and how to work with wood, but I would love to find some people that could bring their expertise in woodworking to HandyGirlsYYC. The idea is to help each other and exchange skills within the community.
Handy Girls https://www.handygirlsyyc.com/