Providing Balinese with Provisions, Dignity, and Empowerment

Sponsored by Gaya Ceramic
Sayan-Ubud, Bali INDONESIA

The world is reeling in the aftershocks of COVID19. Everyone is searching to ascertain the way forward, and that goes for Gaya too. We are supporting an exciting local initiative and we’d love to share with you what that looks like on the ground here in Bali.

The current reality here is stark: over 80% of Bali’s economy depends directly on tourism. The loss of jobs caused by the sudden and ongoing dearth of visitors is massive. There are no government programs to alleviate this kind of unemployment, especially since so many small, yet essential jobs, were not “official.” There is no telling when tourism will resume. As most Balinese live paycheck to paycheck, many are already in jeopardy.

In considering how to support the Sayan community of which Gaya is a part, it has been an important factor to us that the solution be both sustainable and empowering. We wanted to support activity and action for the Balinese to take upon themselves, to benefit themselves and this beautiful island twofold-- for both the short and long term.

Brainchild of Gaya Ceramic Arts Center CEO and co-owner of Moksa Restaurant (also in Sayan), Janur Yasa, launched The Plastic Exchange in order to do just this. It has already been very successfully put to the test in a community where Yasa could really lead the project: his birthplace, the tiny village of Jangkahan in the Tabanan regency.

The concept is two-fold, very simple, and immediately effective. With donations from businesses and/or individuals, a large quantity of basic provisions is stocked (rice, cooking oil, eggs). Members of the community collect plastic rubbish from their home compounds, roads and rivers in their village, and bring their collections to the neighborhood “banjar” (meeting area) to be weighed. The plastic is valued by kg, and paid out in provisions. Thus, the village environment is cleaned and the villagers can earn their staple foods—a win-win.

The community youth group is responsible for sorting each person’s plastic by category and then weighing out their yield. The collector is given a receipt for the worth they have amassed which they present to the head of the banjar and receive the equivalent compensation. The youth group then sorts the plastic into recyclable and non-recyclable, and delivers each to the recycling center and the appropriate landfill, respectively. Monies received for the recycling go to the youth group to fund their own future projects and activities. This represents a third “win” embedded in the initiative!

A standardized accounting is followed by every neighborhood that engages, and follow up for transparency and trouble-shooting of any problems is carried out by the original team, appointed by Yasa. Thus, the initiative is a concept whose model can be multiplied and shared as many times over as there are willing banjars (neighborhoods) who organize themselves to participate. This is the kind of viral we all aspire to initiate!

The Plastic Exchange incentivizes local communities to organize and take action to improve their lives and surroundings in immediately appreciable ways. Implicit in this is a passive education that is achingly absent in formal schooling here: that of needing to dispose of plastics appropriately, the value of recycling, and the ability to create change from the inside out.

In Jangkahan, Yasa’s home village, enthusiasm was immediate. The plan went into action the morning after the very first meeting with the local youth group and the head of the village neighborhood. In a single day 200 kg of plastic was collected—in 17 days 2,600 kg (2,6 tons) plastic and more on the way! Trouble-shooting various scenarios as they arose, they continue fine-tuning the idea, and have found terrific media coverage already in launching the concept to other communities.

We are now beginning in Sayan, Ubud, the neighborhood home of Gaya Ceramic. We’ve begun with a flat contribution from our own company. We are also taking up the promotion of this concept to other prominent businesses in the neighborhood.

We ask, “Why come half way around the world to learn new throwing skills or to fire a kiln?” Our enduring response, “In our view, setting is everything.”

So much of the experience we offer through our studio is based upon where we are, not only the technical and conceptual expertise of a visiting instructor or the attentive awareness of our staff. Thus we ask you, our community of clay lovers and makers, to consider the ways that Bali has impacted your life, and to join us in facilitating grassroots progress here.

Any amount is helpful—a kg of rice could feed a family of 4 for a day and costs only IDR 10,000 or USD $0.75 !!!

Thank you in advance for taking your own action to become involved. We will be sharing the stats on our GoFundMe platform, on our newsletter and through our social media accounts.

With an abundance of gratitude,
Gaya Ceramic and the Bali - Community


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Hillary Kane 
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