In 1975, the Sahrawi were forced from their homeland in the western Sahara and into Algeria by the 16-year western Sahara war. Forty-two years later, 160,000 Sahrawi people still live in refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria. It’s a treacherous desert that can reach 133 ℉.
In 2015, thousands of Sahrawi adobe huts and tents were washed away during a flood. This led Tateh Lehbib Breica to search for a way to build sturdier dwellings for his people. He would end up finding the perfect material in something we discard every day: plastic bottles.
To collect his construction materials, Breica journeys nearly 3 miles in the punishing sun to the local garbage landfill. He collects the bottles in a truck and then fills them with sand bound with cement mix. The houses are well insulated, fire resistant, bulletproof, and much stronger than the Sahrawi’s adobe dwellings.
I have always dreamt of building a shelter for my grandma, where she can escape the burning heat and resist the harsh seasonal floods,” Breica said. “There were some people who could not believe this could ever work.
Since building the first home for his grandmother, Breica began constructing them for other refugees in his camp. This led to him being awarded third place out of 3,000 innovation projects that were presented to the United Nations and provided him with the financial backing to construct 25 houses in his community, each made of 6,000 plastic bottles. Breica’s award is the first step in his ultimate dream to lessen his people’s suffering.