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Reclaiming The Future
“ARO is home, ARO is recognition, ARO is dignity”
For many reclaimers, particularly those working in residential areas, ARO is the first organisation that they’ve come across that represents them and their interests. ARO takes no money from reclaimers and provides them with a defense against evictions, speaks on their behalf with residents, engages in clean-up programmes and actively works toward removing stigma against the work that reclaimers do.
As reclaimers are often stigmatized in their communities, ARO also provides an opportunity for many members to unburden themselves and talk about the emotional stress and pain that stigma causes. ARO is a home and a space where they can speak with one voice and they are learning not to compete amongst themselves as reclaimers, but to cooperate and know the true meaning of solidarity.
“What does it mean to be a member of ARO? For me it means being part of a huge collective that we share the same stories with, that we share the same lifestyle with and we literally share the same lives with. We have the same mentality when it comes to the work that we do, when it comes to the social part of our lives. What ARO has done is to open our eyes to the bigger picture outside of the plastic packaging and cardboard, to look beyond that and to be able to have hope. Most reclaimers had lost a lot of hope and were living from hand to mouth. ARO has not only given us money but has given us the hope to be recognised like normal people. Like others in society.”
“My name is Paula Vilakazi and I am a member of the African Reclaimers Organisation. ARO means a lot to me. It protects me and reclaimers as a whole. It helps us to fight for our rights and builds me mentally, physically and emotionally.”
“I am a reclaimer and I’m a member of African Reclaimers Organisation. Being a member of ARO has played a major role. It has changed a lot of things. We’re now identified as workers not criminals. Before it was so difficult to get recyclables because people did not trust us. They did not have love for us because the work we are doing makes us dirty. So our dignity was not good with the residents. Now because they know us very well they know we are organized, we are not criminals. They are open to us. They separate materials for us. So it’s very important to be a member of ARO.”
“I’m a member of ARO, an organiser, and a chairperson. Being a member of ARO means unity, it means, being recognised, it means I now have a voice where I can be heard. It means that I have found a united family that will take care of my needs as a worker. It means that I have full support in the work that I’m doing. Being a member of ARO is all about supporting each other, building a united organization. It means that united we can conquer everything. Being a member of ARO has taught me how to become a real worker. How to not be a xenophobic person because ARO is a democratic organization.”