OwensThis post is written by Shelly Owens, who together with her husband, Dan, and 5 children, moved to Kampala back in August of this year.

One thing that has really struck Dan and me in the time we’ve been living in Uganda: nothing here is wasted.

We Americans like to think of ourselves as environmentally-conscious recyclers. We burn energy efficient lightbulbs, we build low-flow toilets and showers in our houses, and we recycle our morning cereal boxes. But let me tell you… in this regard, us Americans have nothing on the Ugandans. They are light years ahead of us.

Literally nothing in this culture is wasted. An item is used and re-used and re-used and re-used for its original purpose far beyond the point that most Americans would consider it trash. When something really is worn out beyond usage, rather than throwing it away, its function changes. Basically, it’s recycled into something else.

Avocado pits become soccer balls. Old magazine pages become necklaces. Milk cartons become toy cars. Car and motorcycle gears become dumbells. Scrap metal becomes a roof for a family’s home. Nothing is wasted.

Recently, Dan and I had to replace the tires on our family’s car. We contacted Daniel, who works as the SixtyFeet transportation coordinator, and asked for his help. He came the next morning to pick up our car and promptly returned it that afternoon with four shiny new tires. There was only one problem:

when I opened the back door of our vehicle, I found the four old, dirty tires piled in our trunk.

I was honestly a little upset. “Daniel,” I asked him, “why didn’t you just leave these old, useless tires at the shop? They’ve made a mess in the back of the car and now what am I supposed to do with these things?”

He gave me a knowing smile and replied “but Shelly, these are not useless. They’re perfectly fine. They just aren’t tires anymore.”

I smiled back because I saw where he was headed — and slowly but surely I began to think like a Ugandan. Daniel suggested that we take the old tires to Bwerenga Village, the site of the SixtyFeet Community Development Project, and build some tire swings for the children who live there. Absolutely brilliant.

Last week, with the help of a visiting mission team we did just that. We used a length of rope, some local materials found in the village, and a couple of old, “useless,” tires:

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When it was completed, the village children were absolutely stunned. Most of them had never seen anything like it before and they had no idea what to do with it. So we gave them a couple of lessons.

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And then it was GAME. ON. The children played on the swings non-stop until late in the afternoon and, as far as I know, probably right up until bath time. Which was definitely needed after all this fun.

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Learning to think like a Ugandan is definitely a side benefit of living here. This Christmas season, may we all make the most of the resources at our disposal. Recycle, reduce, reuse — and ultimately end up with more to give away.

Several generous donors have stepped up to offer a dollar-for-dollar match for every donation received by December 31, 2014, up to $60,000. We are within $20,000 of reaching our goal. We ask that you prayerfully consider SixtyFeet in your year-end giving.