COURTESY OF HONGLY KHUY
Takeshi Terada lifts a bag of donated rice while his wife, Florence Doi, offers encouragement in a Cambodian village. The couple collects bottles and cans in Hawaii to help pay for the donations.
Cans for Cambodia
A retired Hawaii Kai couple uses deposits to help villagers
Sometimes onlookers mistake Florence Doi for a homeless woman looking for food through trash cans at public parks.
It doesn't bother her a bit.
For every bottle or can she finds, Doi gets a 5-cent refund, and in Cambodia, that is enough to buy a meal of rice for two children, she said.
Her husband, Takeshi Terada, might grumble a bit about the gas it takes to make their daily scavenging rounds, then take the load to a redemption recycling center. But Terada just likes to "kid her," he said.
The retired, elderly couple from Hawaii Kai admit their charity work has become somewhat of an overwhelming, full-time job with all the collecting, rinsing and sorting of cans and bottles.
"(But) when you think about the value of the outcome, that you can help people in Cambodia, it's very worthwhile. ... One-hundred percent (of the refund) goes to charity," Terada said.
They just returned from their third trip to poverty-stricken Cambodian villages with an outreach group from the University Avenue Baptist Church. The group started going seven years ago and is made up mostly of Cambodian refugees, led by Bible teacher Hongly Khuy.
Khuy, himself a refugee, calls the suburbs outside of Phnom Penh "scavenger villages -- they live on the rubbish (they collect)."
Doi saw "a black and smelly village," emitting the smoke of rubbish fires, and children rummaging through garbage when she first visited Cambodia in 2004. She turned to her husband and said, "Let's be the scavengers for them. Let's go out into the beaches and parks, and go into the rubbish cans."
"I was so touched by what I saw. I couldn't think of anything else."
Although the couple cannot speak to the villagers in their language, "we talk with our eyes," Doi said. "The mothers' eyes -- they are just so full of disbelief that they are getting this rice."
This year, they bought $2,000 worth of rice (equivalent to 20,000 pounds) in Cambodia, along with other items, such as saimin, small toiletry items, medicine, Bibles and reading glasses for 300 villagers.
In addition to their recycling efforts, the couple has weekly garage sales at their Kuliouou Street home to sell items that are dropped off by friends, neighbors and people who have heard of it through word of mouth. The couple also picks up hundreds of bottles weekly from Makiki Christian Church.
Within two days of returning from their trip Jan. 3, the couple got more than 2,000 plastic or glass bottles and cans from people who dropped off the items in their garage.
"We raised $88 in two days. These nickels really add up fast," Doi said. "People are very giving. I don't know who they are. They must come to the garage sale and see pictures of (us) in Cambodia hanging in the garage."
She added, "People started dropping things off because they don't want to see us picking through garbage. ... Japanese people don't want to be seen picking through rubbish, but we think, 'Ooh, this is going to feed two children' (whenever they find a bottle)."
Their evening sojourns to Sandy Beach are made as much to enjoy the natural beauty and peaceful surroundings as they are to go through some 30 rubbish barrels. Park regulars are so friendly and save bottles and cans for them, too, Doi added.
"Once a man asked me, 'Lady, you hungry?' and offered me money. ... Maybe they think we're poor. In Hawaii, people are so kind. ... Their hearts open up very big."
If you have recyclables you want to donate to the couple's cause, call 396-0850.