Balay Samaritano and the First-Ever Plastic Barter Store in Cebu

A couple of weeks ago, I got a chance to visit a special place somewhere in downtown Cebu. I’ve heard about this place multiple times in the past but I never really got the chance to actually locate it. The name of the place is Balay Samaritano. Balay Samaritano is a homeless shelter located along Mabini Street. Sitting right next to the University of Southern Philippines Mabini campus, the shelter is only a few paces away from both the Cathedral Museum and the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral.

With its high walls and miniscule signage, the shelter is very easy to miss. Fortunately, almost everyone in the area knows exactly where it is. And all I did was ask a few people and I finally found its exact location.

Balay Samaritano is a homeless shelter in Cebu City. While the shelter does not have a facility that allows individuals to stay overnight, it is open the whole day to help homeless individuals in the city.

So, why did I go there, you ask? Two things. First, I was invited to cover the blessing of the first-ever Plastic Barter Store in Cebu City. Second, I was there to cover the official signing of an agreement for this wonderful project.

Invited guests gather around to pray during the official blessing of the Plastic Barter Store in Balay Samaritano.

A quick photo op with everyone involved in front of the newly-opened Plastic Barter Store within the Balay Samaritano compound.

So what exactly is the Plastic Barter Store? The Plastic Barter Store is a store where people can take their plastic waste and have them exchanged for goods, food, clothes and other supplies. The store is open to everyone. However, it was basically designed for homeless individuals. They can simply collect bottles, containers, bags, and other plastic items, take them to the barter store and get food and goods in return.

The collected plastic materials are then gathered and taken to a partner organization. We’ll talk more about this below.

Representatives from the Rotary Club of Metro Cebu, 12 Baskets Movement, JPIC-IDC, Inc, and Balay Samaritano sign the agreement to take part in this wonderful project.

The collected plastic materials at the Plastic Barter Store are taken to the 12 Basket Movement’s plastic recycling project. The plastic materials are shredded and used to create hollow blocks, which are in turn used to create houses for the homeless.

Neighborhood kids were among the very first ‘customers’. Their collected plastic bottles were weighed at the store. For every kilo, the kids got to choose the goods that they wanted.

Here are some of the goods and food items that ‘customers’ can choose from:

A kilo of rice for 4 kilos of plastic waste. Not bad.

You may get toys or crayons for only 2 kilos.

You may also opt for water bottles, notebooks, or more toys.

You may also shop for clothes for only 4 kilos of plastic waste.

There are also canned goods that you can score for only 8 kilos.

Some of the most best-selling items include these slippers.

NOTE: Most of the items at the Plastic Barter Store were also donated. If you wish to donate more items to add to the store’s inventory please take them directly to the shelter.

What do you think of this project? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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