Meraki Bay making a difference

The guys get stuck into creating the eco bricks. Together, they managed to finish just over 2 000 eco bricks, using recycled plastic and empty bottles.

An international non-profit organisation has adopted a three-pronged approach to uplifting Hangberg.

Meraki Bay – which works in poor communities around the world – is run by Spanish-born Borja Cortés Martínez who moved to South Africa about a month ago and will be staying in Hout Bay for a year.

“I wanted to come here and be the difference in a community that needs help and that is how I discovered Hangberg, an area with so much potential and they only need a helping hand,” Mr Martínez said.

He teamed up with local community workers, and together, they developed three pillars to tackle the community’s problems: “Houties”, empowerment and entrepreneurship.

The “Houties” pillar is an after-school programme focusing on art, sports, life skills and excursions, to get children off the street.

The empowerment pillar focus es on workshops for women between the ages of 55 and 80 years, motivating and encouraging them to use their creativity and develop products to sell in the local market.

The entrepreneurship pillar is about creating new jobs through professional training, using a coffee shop, Moringa Garden, and AirBnB Tours.

“We want to give people skills they can use to better their lives. It means so much more to give somebody a skill, rather than a product. The product they can eat up or lose, but the skill they can keep for the rest of their lives or even build themselves a new life,” Mr Martínez said.

On Thursday December 5, the team were at Sentinel Primary School, building a tree made from eco-bricks. They installed solar panels at the top to help the school save on the cost of electricity.

Ricardo Phillips was born and raised in Hangberg and is the local project co-ordinator for Meraki Bay. 

“This project we are currently working on (solar panel tree) is going to save the school so much,” he said.

Money the school saved on its R40 000 a month electricity bill could be used on much-needed equipment for the school instead, he said.

Meraki Bay has also launched the Swop Shop at the local sports centre, where children can hand in plastic they’ve collected for points they can exchange for prizes such as caps, T-shirts and sweets.

“We are trying to make our area self-sustaining as well. We need projects that people can get involved with and make a difference and that is why I chose to hang around here and leave my family behind,” said Mr Martinez, a sports science and psychology graduate.

“This all started out in Spain and it just kept on going. I want to do all that I can do to help and that is why I am here,” he said.

The eco-brick tree was designed by Argentinian artist Roberto Drazich, of A Tree To Breathe, a non-profit that plants trees at schools and in communities. “Through these sorts of artistic projects, we can make so much of a difference and spread positivity. We want the people of this community to appreciate and build on our efforts. We can all do something to help our ecosystem and we must start by targeting the children,” Mr Drazich said.

Chantel Galant has three sons regularly participating in Meraki Bay’s projects in and around Hangberg.

“I noticed a change in their ways, small things like putting the chips packet in a different bag and those bags go to the Swop Shop. They are becoming more responsible as well. We need more projects like these in our community because these guys are working very closely with the community, trying to make a difference.”

According to a Meraki Bay project proposal document it gets half of its funding from private donors and the rest from Spanish and South African companies and subsidies and competitions.

The organisation wants to raise R300 000 to fund its Hangberg upliftment project.

“We can do with all the help possible and this help goes the way of the kids,” Mr Martinez said.

To find out more about the Meraki Bay project visit or email Mr Martinez at or call Ricardo at 078 450 2503 or email