Posted by: hepowers | November 6, 2009

Bottles For Africa


African Students (from Free the Children web site)

From royalty to regular folk, today I’m focusing on Ruth Green, a woman in my neighbourhood who lives, breathes and drinks social responsibility.  Looking at her front porch you might think she is quite a partier because every week there are dozens of empty beer, wine and liquor bottles lined up.  But the truth is, other people leave the bottles and it makes her very happy.

Through a campaign she calls Bottles for Africa, Green began with her own few wine bottles, returning them to the beer store and giving the refund money to a high school who partners with Free the Children to build schools in Africa.  Word spread about her campaign and this past April, after she raised $8500 over two years, Green and her husband travelled to Emorijoi, Kenya for four weeks of construction with the students.

The students have built five schools in four years by raising $60,000, and the trips have been a life-altering experience for the students.  “These are not all necessarily the high-achievers,” explains Green.  “Some were considered at risk for not finishing high school but the trip significantly changed their outlook.”

Educating children fulfills part of Free the Children’s mandate to protect children from poverty and exploitation.   Their web site states the program has, “built more than 500 schools around the world and has reached more than one million young people through outreach in North America.”

Since her trip last spring, Green feels even more committed to her Bottles for Africa campaign.  “It has become so successful that my husband and I are challenged to keep up with the volume,” she says.  In addition to the abundant donations on her porch, several local eating establishments return their own bottles but donate the refunds to Green.   “It’s wonderful that they do this,” says Green, “as I could not manage the amount of returns they generate.”

But that is not all she does for social responsibility.  Green is an active member of the Sky Dragon Centre in Hamilton, ‘a non-profit worker co-op dedicated to the goals of progressive social and environmental change.’  And she is also a Grandmother of Steel, a group supporting African women raising their grandchildren after the parents have died from AIDS.  Through an affiliation with the Stephen Lewis Foundation, these women lobby and create funds to assist with raising millions of African AIDS orphans.

So I’ll raise a drink and say ‘Cheers to Ruth Green, a totally committed, socially responsible citizen!’ And then I’ll walk my empty wine bottle over to her porch for my humble donation to Bottles for Africa.



  1. This is a rich response to children in need. I always enjoy stories about North American youth who travel to and work in developing countries. In this story there is a reciprocal benefit. Not only are schools built for children who want to learn, but North American youth become motivated to stay in school. It can be a life changing experience to visit and participate in “developing” communities where there is so little materially speaking, compared to our western way of living. Your neighbour Ruth Green sounds like an outstanding person.

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