A life less ordinary
Husband and wife, Mumtaz and Beenish* – although in their 60s – have no thoughts of retirement. They have started new jobs in their community.
They get up at 3.45am to clear up rubbish from their neighbourhood.
‘Every kind of rubbish is here,’ says Mumtaz. ‘Including broken glass, plastic, metal... sometimes people throw food away.’
What a waste
Pakistan has never had adequate waste management. The government only collects half of the rubbish generated by people and industry.
Uncollected waste poses a serious public health risk. The slum in Islamabad where Mumtaz and Beenish live is a clear example.
‘The rubbish causes many problems like coughs, fever and other diseases,’ says Mumtaz. ‘Waste is everywhere. We don’t like this rubbish. We want our homes to be as clean as possible.’
‘We don’t like this rubbish. We want our homes to be as clean as possible’
Up in smoke
Nine years ago the couple moved to Islamabad, where they used to work as brickmakers. They were happy to come and live with their children and grandchildren.
But they found conditions in the slum to be very poor, with waste dumped and burnt at night.
‘When the fire is burning, we fall ill because of the smoke. When it is rotten, it smells. We cannot dispose of all of it – it spreads pollution.’
So when their church held a meeting to introduce a new recycling scheme proposed by Tearfund’s partner Pak Mission Society (PMS), Mumtaz and Beenish were keen to get involved...
Too good to refuse
‘They wanted to start a project to clean the community,’ says Mumtaz. ‘They needed people to collect the rubbish.’
The couple agreed to take on that paid role. This will help them to support themselves and their family. It will also provide better living conditions for the whole community.
‘It will help us to be safe from diseases. And it has given us a job too. This place will be clean, and our brothers and sisters will no longer suffer from diseases.’
‘They wanted to start a project to clean the community’
One of the things Mumtaz and Beenish love most about the job is that they are with each other all day.
‘We work together and come back home together as well,’ says Mumtaz. ‘It feels good. We get up between 3:30am and 3:45am. We wash our hands and faces, pray to God, then go to work.
‘After work, we have dinner and enjoy fun times with our grandchildren. Then we rest.’
‘I like it,’ adds Beenish. ‘We used to go very far to work, but this work is in our neighbourhood.’
‘When your environment is clean you feel good,’ says Mumtaz. ‘PMS has done a great service to our community.
‘And good work is always good. Since we started collecting rubbish there are no piles left in the market.’
With the extra income from their jobs, the couple hope to help with their grandchildren's education. ‘We want our grandchildren to have a good education and learn about the teachings of God,’ says Mumtaz.
‘When your environment is clean you feel good’
Bags for lives
One bag at a time, Mumtaz and Beenish are helping to make their family and the community's lives healthier.
Mumtaz’s dream is to live in a community with ‘...proper streets, no rubbish and every person feeling good.’
And as they work hard to achieve that vision, the couple are enjoying their new role. ‘We are living a good life,’ says Mumtaz.
‘Our hard work is paying off, and our environment is improving.’
*Names changed throughout for privacy purposes