Set up in Ayvalik, a scenic seaside town on Turkey’s northwestern Aegean coast, Tara Hopkins has found a way to impact the lives of women in the community by putting garbage to good use, writes assistant editor, Ann Ruppenstein in this week’s Travel Courier.
Hopkins runs a co-op for women who have never worked for salary before, creating one-of-a-kind accessories out of recycled materials like bottle caps and discontinued packaging for tea and ketchup. Translating to the garbage ladies, çöp(m)adam addresses issues of women’s employment in Turkey and the importance of recycling.
“There are a lot of women’s organizations here in Turkey doing a lot of great work, many of them are focusing on domestic violence and as much as that’s an issue I said we need to focus on other things and take a few steps back,” Hopkins said, recalling how the business came to be from the backroom of the storefront as two women cut up and sew material in the front. “We need to do more to empower women, make them stand up for themselves, believe that they have more worth so I wanted to incorporate that, I wanted to address issues of poverty, so this came up completely out of frustration.”
On average, the shop saves at least six tons of waste from going to landfills annually with sales of 4,000 items.
After learning about the shop through CEO (chief experience officer) Murat Tuztas, a visit to çöp(m)adam was added onto G Adventures itineraries in Turkey passing through the destination.
“I love what it stands for,” Tuztas said. “I see those issues all the time in my country and it has to improve. I really loved the idea and I thought why not include this in our itineraries?”
The tour operator anticipates sending 500 travellers to the shop in 2020, and is in the process of expanding its partnership with its non-profit organization, Planeterra Foundation. Soon, all G Adventures travellers visiting the shop will receive tote bags made from recycled materials by the women of çöp(m)adam, which currently employs 20 people.
“This social enterprise works with women who have never held a job before and never earned a salary. Once working in this supportive environment the employees are able to find their confidence and begin to break down cultural barriers to women’s employment in Turkey. More than that, çöp(m)adam is intersecting plastic and other items from landfills and recreating them into something beautiful,” said Rhea Simms, program manager, Asia-Pacific at Planeterra. “Despite a low volume of tourists over the last few years, çöp(m)adam had been able to sustain its mission by building partnerships locally, designing and creating bags for organizations across the country. Getting travellers back in the door will allow çöp(m)adam to expand their work, empower more women and do more for the environment.”
For the full story, check out this week’s digital edition of Travel Courier.