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Hard work, waste recycling effort gives retiree reason to rise daily

Most adult children would like their elderly parents to stay close to home and do some gentle housework when they are old.

Such is not the hope of all elderly though.

For some being without work is like waiting for their life to end.

Many old people like to wake up early and can not sleep well because they might overthink life.

Mr Khammai Keobounthan deals with the waste.

  Some feel they have wasted time for something unnecessary in the past and still hope to rectify. 

Like most things, availability of money is a barrier in Laos where many old persons don’t have a great earning capacity and do not receive retirement annuities or pensions.

They must do something that they can to earn money or stay within budget.

Most of them prefer to stay with the youngest or less advantaged adult child as they want to help them to do something such housework and take care of grandchildren.

Not Mr Khammai Keobounthan.

Around 8am along the dusty road in Oudomphan village Xaythany district, you might see this diminutive 72-year-old man with a hunched back pushing his barrow full of recyclable plastic waste.

Some people who don’t know him might feel pity, speculating that he is from a low-income family or has no adult child or younger relatives to take care of his needs in his twilight years.

Otherwise, why does he go around the village to collect the waste bottles, plastic and paper?

The man himself, Mr Khammai Keobounthan told Vientiane Times that he is not the kind of person to stop working even though he knows that he is of advanced age.

He has been working and collecting recyclables for many years already because he doesn’t want to spend his remaining life lying in bed and watching television.

In the beginning, his children did not agree with his idea to continue in the trade.

They said he was old and did too much hard work to feed his children already.

Now all of his kids are adults, they don’t want him to work anymore.

But he has feels some pain in his body when he doesn’t keep active.

Also, he doesn’t want to be a financial burden for the family and feels happier to do something that he still can to make his daily life active while earning an income.

There are various jobs retirees can typically do, but Mr Khammai said he wanted to do things his way.

In doing so, he is also contributing to public amenity against a tide of pollution for a more sustainable future.

There are not many people around his village willing to do this job.

Every day Mr Khammai leaves his home around 6am and spends two hours walking around the village.

Previously, the villagers dropped waste around the roadside or gave to waste disposal companies.

Now many villagers organise paper, plastic, and gas bottle and then give or sell to him.

“This is not only a job, but I feel that it’s like good exercise as well because I am forced to have a walk in the morning that is good for my health”, Mr Khammai said.

He buys the cardboard boxes for 300 kip kilo and sells 600 kip.

He spends 500 kip per kilo on empty plastic bottles and sells them for 10,000kip per kilo.

He sells broken glass for 100 or 200kip per kilo, earning him around 30,000 kip to 50,000 kip per day.

Mr Khammai doesn’t collect only waste plastic and glass, but he also produces handmade rice pots to order.

In the wet season, he also produces grass thatch for reroofing shade huts and basic structures.

It is efforts like these that are keeping him busy, active and bright despite his advancing years.

So if you see Mr Khammai by the roadside, lend him a friendly wave and hand over the recyclable bounty with a smile.

By Patithin Phetmeuangphuan
(Latest Update July 4, 2017)

 

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