Recycled bottles turn to revenue through jewelry making workshops in Colombia

Creation, Creation Care , Stories

Contributed by: Compassion Canada


Have you ever looked inside your recycling bin and thought: “These boxes and bottles could help support my family”?

Most people haven’t. And neither did Patricia.

In fact, recycling had never been important to her. At home, Patricia threw the recyclable materials and garbage in the same place without a second thought.

She never thought that one day, the empty bottles she threw away would become a life-changing business opportunity for her and her family.

Blessing families with opportunity

Patricia and her young family live in Cartagena, a port city on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. Though it’s known to be a popular beach destination, many families in Cartagena live in poverty, including Patricia’s family.

While Patricia cares for her two children, Jose and Yilena, her husband works transporting people on his motorcycle. Though the family lives on very little, the local Compassion centre has helped provide new opportunities.

Patricia’s nine-year-old son, Jose, is a part of Compassion’s local program in Cartagena. At the centre, the workers care for the children’s holistic development and are always looking for opportunities to bless their families. They know that a strong family will raise strong children. So, in 2022, Jose’s Compassion centre presented a unique opportunity for caregivers.

Turning pop bottles into profit

Seeing the need caregivers had to provide for their families, they decided to run a unique entrepreneurial workshop: Recycled jewelry making.

The workshop taught 76 mothers how to repurpose recycled materials like plastic bottles into different crafted goods, like jewelry.

Each mother received a bag with tools to create jewelry at home, empowering them to start their own business. The goal was to make them aware of caring for the planet while generating income for their families.

“It is important to teach parents income generation abilities because many are unaware of the gifts and talents they have to provide for their families. Through this learning, parents become more confident about their abilities,” says Grey, the centre director.

Recycled jewelry: A newfound passion for Patricia

Quickly, Patricia became excited about learning this unique skill. A natural entrepreneur, she learned how to make earrings, necklaces and bracelets with recycled products. She also loved the lessons about managing her own business.

“I was interested in this learning at the centre because it was a way to care for the planet and provide for my family. I can make beautiful jewelry with recycled bottles, sell it and teach others to make it,” says Patricia.

Motivated to share her skills with others, Patricia began teaching other women in a neighbouring town how to make recycled jewelry, too!

“We went home to home, telling mothers about the course. We had six classes to teach them to make jewelry with plastic bottles. Thanks to that, I could provide for my family’s needs, and around 15 more mothers learned this important ability. They had a craft fair in the town where mothers sold their products,” says Patricia.

Making recycled things beautiful things—as a family

Today, Jose and the rest of Patricia’s family are involved with the business, too! Patricia’s relatives and neighbours bring their plastic bottles to her to use in her creations.

Jose picks up every bottle he finds on the street and brings it home for his mother’s work. Other times, he goes around the neighbourhood with his mom picking up bottles on the street. He’s happy knowing that his mother cares for the environment through what she makes.

Patricia and Jose collect bottles for the recycled jewelry from Compassion Canada on Vimeo.

“My mom taught me that recycling means caring for the earth and the environment. Recycling is good because we can make beautiful things with recycled products,” says Jose.

Teaching the next generation of recyclers

This year, Patricia will teach children at the centre the abilities she learned so they can create new products using recycled materials.

“I am so grateful to the centre and donors for helping us. They helped me and many other mothers. When I have needs at home, there is not enough food, I can take some money from my business and use it to feed my children,” she says.

Patricia and Jose create jewelry out of recycled bottles from Compassion Canada on Vimeo.

Today, Patricia’s recycled jewelry business is thriving. She takes pictures of her creations to sell to her friends and neighbours. With her husband’s help, Patricia wants to buy a glass showcase to sell her products at home. Thanks to the knowledge she received at the centre, she considers herself an entrepreneur and has grown in confidence.

“It is important for children and parents to learn to care for the earth,” says Patricia. “Avoiding throwing trash on the streets can prevent floods and help the environment. I invite you to recycle, to care for our children’s environment and future.”

The future is bright—for Patricia, and for the planet!

When we care for creation, we care for children, too.