I’ll take you to an open space near our school which the government has declared as a play ground but has turned into a dumping place for the area. That place is so full of trash and dirt that it’s unfit for children to play there”, said Khurram Abbas explaining the motivation behind his team’s prize winning plan to reduce waste in his hometown of Jhang at the Regional Enterprise Award Competition of the British Council held in London in March 2009.
30 students from six countries gathered in London from March 9 – 11 to compete in social enterprise skills. Besides the team from Pakistan, other participating countries included Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Nepal. The Enterprise Award Challenge is a national and international competition aimed at encouraging young people to use their skills in social enterprise through innovative ways to ultimately increase their employability and nurture their entrepreneurial talent.
In the Pakistani team were Muhammad Nazim, Farida Siddiq, Noshabah Nasir, Kanwal Saeed and Khurram Abbas - all teenagers. This team of five forward-thinking young people came from Government Vocational Training Institute (GVTI) in Jhang, a small city located about 350 KM from Lahore. Their school is only for under-privileged students who are given admission after their financial need is verified, making their achievement even more noteworthy. Before this, none of them had even visited Pakistan’s bigger cities like Karachi or Islamabad, let alone travel internationally.
“I see a lot of waste on my way from home to school and I always used to feel bad about it. I thought to do something to clean it up”, said Nazim Zafar. The winning team prepared a blueprint called “Integrated Solid Waste Management System” to overcome challenges faced by their community in Jhang. ‘An ever growing population of 382,450 in 2008 is producing 187 tons of solid waste per day.’ the students state in their plan, ‘This causes spread of diseases, aesthetic insult, and a feeling of misery and helplessness among citizens’.
At the final in London, there were three days packed with activities to bring the teams together as a group where they learnt not only about entrepreneurship but also about other cultures and traditions through the country fairs. Nineteen year old Muhammad Nazim said “My concept about enterprise was raw, the British Council helped me understand its true meaning. I wish all enterprises can become social enterprises and avoid harming the environment, society and humankind.”
About her experience in the UK Kanwal Saeed said, “This was the first time I happened to meet people from so many different cultures. I learnt that we must respect all cultures, be polite and communicate with each other”.
Noshabah Nasir piped in by laughingly saying, “The bad thing about UK is that you have to walk a lot (laughs). Here in Pakistan, we can stop a rickshaw, taxi or a bus anywhere we like but it’s not like that in the UK!”
On the final day of the competition in London, the six teams pitched their ideas in front of a panel of highly distinguished judges comprising Tim Campbell, Iqbal Wahab, Khalid Sharif, Elizabeth Crowther-Hunt and Mark Stephens. The judges rated the teams on their ideas, market research, money matters, presentation and their response to the questions asked.
Tim Campbell, Chief Executive Officer, Bright Ideas Trust, UK had the following to say, “The panel was incredibly impressed by your (participants) ideas and articulation – especially when you had to talk in a language which is not your first language. Regardless of whether you win or lose we want you to be ambassadors to take the message back to your countries that ‘business is at the heart of social change.”
The team of teenagers from the small town of Jhang in Pakistan had won! They won prize money of £2,500 to implement their plan and a camcorder to record their progress.
The Jhang team after winning the national competition got a soft loan of Rs. 250,000 from British Council and also received a prize worth £2,500 as winners of the regional enterprise award.
Their project was to produce fertilizers from the garbage collected from their city. They bought some necessary equipment from the seed money they received. They also bought a camcorder to record progress on their project and started working from 25th April 2009. In the first two months they were able to collect about 500 tons of garbage from across Jhang city and dumped it at the garbage collection facility provided by the Shakarganj Sugar Mills which is a local entrepreneur helping these students to move forward with their plans.
Despite many challenges, these energetic young people were able to produce 400 tons of fertilizer out of the garbage within two months. The fertilizer was sold at Rs. 80,000/- while the total expenditure incurred was Rs. 70,000/- hence making a profit of Rs. 10,000. These young people were not only self-employed but also hired other people creating employment opportunity for the youth in their area.