13 Aug OZblu blueberries brightening the path for a local community in Zambia
Perth, August 2020 | Countries with a high GDP and strong economy, such as Australia, have very little use for second-hand clothing and goods. Many of these items are dumped in landfills which, amongst other waste factors, contributes negatively to the global carbon footprint. Roger Horak, founder of United Exports – an international fruit export company and producer of OZbluⓇ blueberries – was born and raised in South Africa. Based in his current hometown, Perth, Horak quickly recognised an opportunity to collect unwanted clothing across Australia and redistribute to people in countries and communities in desperate need – and so OZ for Africa was born.
Horak explains the motivation behind the initiative, “Growing up in rural South Africa, it was ingrained in me that there was a large population that did not share the same sense of privilege that I did. It has always been a part of my DNA, instilled by my parents, not to forget the people who have less privileges. Whilst growing up on a farm the clothes that my siblings and I outgrew, were never thrown away. There was always someone who could benefit from the clothing and wear them to the end of their true life.”
He continues, “When I moved to Australia I continued with this process, always taking any unloved clothes back to the farm in South Africa. I mostly only travel with carry-on luggage for work so the rest of my 90kg luggage allowance I would allocate for this purpose. Seeing the gratitude that these deliveries were met with has always been the driving force to expand this initiative further. When I learnt that most clothes donated to charities in Australia ended up being shredded for rags or landfill, my wife, Sharon, and I decided to try do something about this on a larger scale.”
Led by Horak and his dedicated United Exports team, a number of clothing and goods collections took place across Australia towards the end of 2019. Following collection, all the clothing and other donations were sorted and packed into a container destined for Zambia. A staggering two thirds of the container was packed with clothing and the rest was made up of blankets, wheelchairs, mattresses, school supplies, kitchenware, toys and even a sewing machine! Twelve and a half tonnes of goods were spared from landfill waste. The container left the shores of Perth on the 31st of January 2020 and was estimated to take 8 weeks at sea. The project was funded by United Exports and essential logistical and financial support was provided by GoReefers, CMA CGM Shipping Company, Mercer Mooney and CEVA Logistics.
Roger and Sharon Horak alongside the United Exports team closing the doors on the fully packed container.
On the 1st of May 2020, the container arrived at its final destination in Zambia, Zambezi Berry Company (ZBC), a proud grower of the OZbluⓇ varieties. The journey of the container was made slightly more challenging due to lock-down restrictions which were implemented as a result of the COVID-19 world-wide pandemic. However the delivery could not have come at a better time, as winter has arrived in the southern hemisphere and many people in the community are in need of clothing.
Sorting through the clothing to hand out to the community.
The container of clothing and additional items were distributed amongst the community in Zambia. The beneficiaries were a children’s home, Chishawasha, 15 km from Lusaka, where 70 orphans and vulnerable children are cared for, ZBC’s Chongela village community, which consists of over 120 employees and their families who reside on the farm, and lastly the local school, Munano, which educates 700 children. Bruce Donaldson, ZBC manager, exclaimed, “the pictures are worth a thousand words! You really had to be physically present to understand the sheer delight and gratitude shown by our staff and children.”
Grateful men receiving their clothing parcels.
Horak concludes, “Australians are very generous people, and seeing the result of the first container I have no doubt we could fill a significant amount of containers per year. I am hopeful that we can attract some of our OZbluⓇ partners to help share the financial cost of transporting the containers from Australia to Africa, which will further increase the frequency of these donations. With our extensive farm network and natural distribution channels, we at OZbluⓇ can make sure that all these items are handed out freely and do no end up being sold or used for commercial gain.”
OZ for Africa will continue to distribute clothing, educational toys, blankets, stationery, bicycles and other goods to communities in Africa that are in need of such items.