In Lamu, Kenya, young Juma is excited because he’s going fishing with Babu Ali, his grandfather. When they arrive at the beach, Juma notices brightly colored objects and thinks they are fish. But to his dismay, he realizes they’re discarded flip-flops that have washed ashore. As he observes a flip-flop floating on the water, he says, “It looks like a small boat.” Babu Ali is proud of Juma – one day he will be a master boat builder like his father and grandfather. When Juma decides to use the flip-flops for a boat race, Babu Ali congratulates his grandson on his imagination, then comes up with a grander scheme: “We could make a big boat for people to sail all the way to Zanzibar!”
As Babu Ali and Juma make plans to build the boat out of plastic waste, they encounter skepticism from some people but support from others who catch their vision. For days, people gather plastic garbage that washes ashore and eventually collect 10 tons of plastic trash. Babu Ali, Juma and his friends, and other boat builders combine forces to melt down the plastic and use it like wood to build a sailboat they name Flipflopi.
Digital artist Michael Machira Mwangi’s bright, energetic illustrations bring to life this hopeful children’s book based on the true story of Flipflopi, a boat constructed entirely from plastic waste retrieved from the Kenyan coast. The sailboat was launched in September 2018 off the coast of Lamu, Kenya.
In authors’ notes, Linda Ravin Lodding and Dipesh Pabari relate how the creation of Flipflopi was the seed for a larger vision and venture: “The next adventure is already underway, and an even bigger boat is being designed from recycled plastic that will voyage around the world. The boat will dock at ports along the way to teach people about plastic pollution with the simple (and colorful) message that we need to get rid of unnecessary, single-use plastics. Flipflopi shows us how plastics can have a second life. As they say in Swahili, ‘Kila kitu inawezekana!’---‘Everything is possible!’” (Beaming Books)
About the Author
Sonya VanderVeen Feddema is a freelance writer and a member of Covenant CRC in St. Catharines, Ontario.