MANCHESTER, UK — Celebrities such as Brian May, Benedict Cumberbatch and Margot Robbie have supported the Small Steps Project by auctioning their shoes off for charity. The 2022 auction campaign, ran through the website Charity Stars, has fundraised over $70,000 for the humanitarian organization which supports children living on rubbish dumps across the globe. To date, the annual auctions have provided over 20,000 children with vital aid.
Small Steps Project has run programs in Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe and Central America. It aims to provide emergency aid and measures to reduce immediate dangers to children and families living and scavenging on dumps, such as nutrition, gloves and shoes. This also allows the charity to implement projects which enable children to spend more time in education and less time on dumps.
The Global Waste Problem and its Effects on the Poor
The work of the Small Steps Project is particularly important considering the growing global waste problem. With an estimated 2.24 billion tonnes of waste produced globally in 2020, and a predicted rise to 3.88 billion tonnes of annual waste generation by 2050 according to the World Bank, developing countries are being hit the hardest as they suffer the consequences of poorly managed waste.
The urban poor in low-income countries are often exposed to serious hazards due to dangerous waste management such as unregulated dumps. The dumps often harbor diseases and contain syringes, broken glass and toxic waste, as well as raw sewage. Many children are forced to live on and scavenge these dumps in order to earn a living and survive, as Brazilian waste expert Sonia Dias explained to the Guardian that “the first thing that drives people to work with waste, wherever it is, is destitution – it’s poverty”.
Active Dump Projects
Small Steps Project is currently running active projects in East Africa. Its dump projects in Nairobi, Kenya help children and families working in the Ngong Dump and Dandora Dump. In Uganda, dump projects are run in the Kiteezi and Namboole dumpsites in Kampala and the Seyange Dump in Masaka.
In Kenya, the Ngong Dump Project has provided the Ngong Dump community and residents of the adjacent Mathare Slums with facilities such as a nursery, garden and playground, as well as water and nutritional programs. Similarly, the Komb Green Project provides those living on the Dandora Dump in Korogocho with access to clean water, feeding programs and a playground. Small Steps Project also provides residential care to at-risk girls in Kenya through its funding and running of The Queen’s Shelter.
In Kampala, Uganda, Small Steps Project has distributed shoes and protective gloves across the Kiteezi and Namboole dumpsites, enabling scavengers to protect their hands and feet from cuts and infections. They also provide children with The Shoe That Grows, a long-lasting shoe created by Because International which expands to five sizes in order to protect children’s feet for as long as possible.
In the Seyange Dump in Masaka, Uganda, whilst approximately 100 children worked on the dump in 2019, Small Steps Project has ensured that children are no longer forced to scavenge the dump. Children can now spend their time attending the Children’s Support Centre which is equipped with a kitchen, medical room, classrooms and bathrooms.
Raising Awareness Through Film
As well as running projects across the globe, Small Steps Project creates documentary films to bring light to the work they do and the people they support. With the help of professional cameramen and editors, these films are screened across the globe and entered into competitions in order to raise awareness around the problem of children living on rubbish dumps.
A Look Ahead
Small Steps Project provides crucial aid to those forced to work and live in the poorest of conditions as the global waste problem becomes increasingly prevalent. Campaigns such as the Small Steps Project’s annual celebrity shoe auction are a perfect example of those with a platform can use their influence and privilege to support those without a voice. As well as helping alleviate the problems faced by children living on rubbish dumps, taking action to reduce the issue of unsafe waste management such as recycling rubbish and avoiding single-use plastics is also key to ending child waste picking practices.
– Priya Thakkar