Yoko Wakiya is curious by nature, always wondering what items are and what they can be used for.
As a child in Japan in the 1940s, she grew up with no-waste values; she remembers her mother repeatedly mending her apron, until it was a patchwork.
Wakiya loves creating and learning, and over the years has taught herself craft from books and the internet. Wanting to do something useful for her community in her retirement, she was volunteering at the Arts Recycling Centre at Square Edge. The then director, John Barnes, gave her the use of a room for free.
With materials from ARC, she began running workshops – and Upcycling Club 1 was born. The aim is to help people create something beautiful and useful using waste materials.
Creativity is good for the brain, Wakiya says, and we all need to have some fun. There is a sense of accomplishment in creating something useful and/or beautiful, especially from material that would otherwise go to waste. She enjoys seeing people smile, as they create cards, decorations, games, gifts and useful household items like draught stoppers made from the legs of old trousers.
Because there isn't a lot of money to buy things like stuffing, Wakiya has tried different materials to fill the draught stoppers, including holey socks and unwanted plastic bags. She and the other volunteers make kits for activities such as paper-making, dream catchers and card making, using only recycled materials. She accomplishes all this while being only partially sighted – an injury when she was 1 reduced the sight in one eye to almost nothing.
Wakiya also enjoys working with like-minded people. Several other volunteers now join her, bringing new skills such as sewing and origami.
This year the club received some funding from the ENM Environmental Initiatives Fund. This not only allows her to give something back to her volunteer helpers, in the form of petrol vouchers, but it has boosted everybody's morale, making them feel valued by their community.
Upcycling Club 1 workshops are free, and are held at Te Manawa on the third Saturday of each month, 1pm-3 pm. All ages are welcome but children under 14 need to be accompanied by an adult.
Wakiya would like to have more volunteers, and offer more activities. She wonders if there are other community groups she could collaborate with. If you're interested, email her on firstname.lastname@example.org.
+ INFO: Environment Network Manawatū is a hub for about 60 enviro groups, working in areas ranging from sustainable living to wildlife conservation. Find them on Facebook or visit enm.org.nz.