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A Mission with Milk Bags

Posted on 19 June 2015

Angela Kesthely is a mother of three, wife to a loving husband, and saving the world:
one milk bag at a time. After her Masters in Biology and working in bone cancer research,
she decided to stay home to raise her young children.

But in 2008 she was diagnosed with breast cancer. In her spare time and on her road to recovery,
Angela started knitting hundreds of scarves for the homeless in Toronto. It was at one of her son’s
basketball games that someone noticed her knitting and asked if she ever heard of “Milk Bag
Mats”. It was at this moment that inspiration hit. Asking neighbours and friends to donate their
milk bags, Angela used them to knit into mats and thus became the “Milk Bag Lady”.

A common item sitting in many Canadian households’ garbage bins (Toronto does not accept
these as recycling), outer milk bags can be up-cycled into a variety of items such as crochet bags,
and valuable bedding for the homeless or hospitals in disaster areas. Being non-biodegradable,
and UV resistant, what makes milk bags a poor contender for landfills; makes it a great material to
create durable products.

After seeing disaster of the 2010 the Haiti Earthquake, Angela decided to help. Partnering with Air
Transat, Angela managed to ship over 750,000 milk bags to Port Au Prince to help unemployed
women create their own milk bag mats. Thus the charity MILKBAGS Unlimited was born. Inspired
by her personal motto of “Empower the people – Save the Planet,” she taught the women in Haiti
– some who did not know how to read or write - how to crochet the bags into mats, handbags,
slippers and table runners to sell in their local markets.

Today, Angela still continues to send milk bag mats all over the world with the help of volunteers,
children from 300 Canadian schools and Canada Food for Children (CFFC). Her next quest is to
send milk bags to Burkina Faso, Africa, which continues to have one of the lowest literacy rates in
the world, with girls’ literacy rates much lower than boys because of preferential schooling. With
the funds from the LNBF Earth Award, Angela hopes to continue the project in Haiti and expand to
Burkina Faso to help the women and girls there to create their own milk bag businesses.

To find out more about her charity and Angela’s story, visit MILKBAGS unlimited.


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