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Then Trash Became Ffrash: Meet Karin van Horssen and Renate Suurd-Joossink

Ffrash produces high-quality, sustainable design furniture and home interior products from trash, giving former street children a chance at a better life. Their values? 100 percent trash, 100 percent sustainable, 100 percent design and 100 percent not-for-profit. We meet the two ladies in charge to find out more.

Karin

Karin van Horssen

Renate_8045

Renate Surrd-Joossink

Let’s start with a bit of background information about you both. What are your professional backgrounds and what brought you to designing interior products out of trash in Bekasi?

Renate: I came to Jakarta in 2013, having worked for more than 15 years for Wegter Consumenten BV in the Netherlands, where I developed concepts for kitchen and tableware in many different styles. Accompanying my husband to Indonesia, Ffrash was the logical step to share my professional experience and contribute to this great opportunity. Jakarta, with its more than sufficient amount of trash and high number of street youths, needs awareness and support. Giving former street youth a second chance by providing them shelter, training, work experience in combination with sustainable design products from trash, is the perfect way for me to support the Indonesian society.

Karin: After having different marketing jobs in the Netherlands, I decided to start my own business in 2008. By creating clothes for women and girls, I combined creativity and entrepreneurship. My husband’s work brought me and my family to Indonesia in 2013. When I first saw the design products of Ffrash and heard the story behind the project, I was really impressed. So, when I had the opportunity to join this beautiful project, I didn’t hesitate. With Ffrash, again, I can combine creativity and entrepreneurship, but more important: give the former street children of Jakarta a second chance.

Where do you source your recyclable items from?

The wine bottles are generally given to us by friends and we work with some restaurants to acquire their used wine bottles, too. We are always in need of wine and glass water bottles. The table vases are made from fishing boat bulbs, which were once thrown overboard when broken. We buy the majority of our other materials directly from the trash pickers.

I actually own one of your vases made out of a fishing boat’s light bulb. Where did you get your inspiration for this unique design?

The vase was designed by the Dutch designers Guido Ooms and Karin van Lieshout. They travelled to Indonesia several times to visit trash dumps in search of the right materials. After having designed the Ffrah collection, they trained the team on how to handle the tools and machines and the various aspects of product design.

What creative designs are you working on now?

At the moment we are working with Indonesian designers, Karsa, and we are looking for new designers who can develop and add a new Ffrash collection.

A vase made from a used fishing boat light bulb

A vase made from a used fishing boat light bulb

Tell us about the children that you work with and train as artisans. These children used to live on the streets before becoming a part of Yayasan Kampus Diakonia Modern (KDM) and entering into your programme. What positive developments have you noticed in their characters from being a part of Ffrash?

Ffrash works closely with KDM, a local foundation that offers shelter to former street children. Ffrash believes that every child deserves the right to a sustainable future in a clean environment. With this vision, we created an opportunity for the street children to become skilled workers who can turn trash in beautiful design products. Ffrash provides the former street children aged 16 to 19 years, 18 months training, but also endows these youth with knowledge and skills to start their own companies.

At Ffrash, they learn how to use and develop their skills in different ways. They work in the Ffrash workshop from Monday till Friday. Further, we offer them schooling – English courses and safety training. We notice that some children are becoming more responsible and more self-confident.

Do your artisans get paid for their work? How do you ensure your work with the children is sustainable?

The artisans receive pocket money for their work. There are three key factors – economic growth, environmental issues, and poverty – that must be addressed in order for sustainable development to take place. Poverty in particular often prevents sustainable use of natural resources, and so it must be handled intelligently to reverse the trend. By integrating environmental conservation on one hand and economic development on the other, sustainable development can be achieved. In other words, sustainability requires a balance between ecological, economic, and social considerations.

Ffrash went in search of new applications for reusing trash to provide more benefits to the less fortunate youths around Jakarta, while also reducing the energy required for recycling.

In this way, Ffrash contributes to sustainable development by creating a better balance between consumption and conservation. It is a fact that the processing of wood, whether for the purpose of furniture-making or wood crafting, is part of the Indonesian culture and tradition. Ffrash does not chop down more trees to make its furniture and interior design products. Instead, Ffrash makes furniture and other products by re-using trash, thus showing people that you can create new products without using wood as a raw material.

Additionally, ‘upcycling’ offers a solution to the problems around waste processing in Indonesia. And lastly, by training youths in furniture-making, Ffrash empowers them to succeed in society. Vocational training and professional coaching support the street children to break out of the vicious cycle of poverty. The children learn to create a better future for themselves in an environmentally sustainable manner, while learning a trade and entrepreneurial skills.

What is the most moving experience you’ve had while working at Ffrash?

The whole experience has been moving. There are success stories, but sometimes also some sad stories. It has its ups and downs. That’s how it goes in real life…

Are there any challenges that you face working with ex-street children?

It’s obvious that their background is totally different from ours. Sometimes it is difficult to empathise. For us it’s important to keep in mind that their backgrounds are different and to react the right way.

From your work in this industry, how have you found the Indonesian mentality towards rubbish?

There is a still a lot of work to do in Indonesia. It’s going slowly, step by step. This will take years after years to change. We have just started to notice the presence of more public rubbish bins around Jakarta, encouraging people to separate and dispose of their rubbish more thoughtfully.

What can we expect to see from Ffrash in the near future?

We want to make a beautiful high design interior collection which is much more expanded. We also want to generate more selling points. On the other hand, we will try to help the former street youth as much as we can, giving them a second chance and a better future. All profits are divided between the children and the running of the workshop. We invest in their further development and training to give them a second chance.

Thank you! To get in touch, please email: renate.joossink@gmail.com

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Angela is a freelance journalist and founder of Clean Up Jakarta Day. Outside the office she climbs mountains and dives oceans, all the while picking up litter.