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An interview with Marc

Marc Helwing © Project Wings gGmbH
A village made of plastic waste, that's the goal of Project Wings. In today's interview, co-founder Marc Helwing tells us how this idea came about and how the project also offers local people the opportunity to generate income.

Dear Marc, please introduce your organization to our readers in a few sentences.

Project Wings is a conservation organization that has perhaps never existed in this form before. Together we are building the largest recycling village in the world on Sumatra (Indonesia) with a unique concept. Founded in 2019 by four young people, this has become one of the fastest growing aid organizations in Germany in a very short time.

We want to make environmental protection socially acceptable and combine the areas of nature conservation, animal protection and humanitarian aid with our work. Our project is aimed at leaving behind a self-supporting system that is run by locals. We are human, authentic, transparent and pursue innovative ideas. Above all, our closeness to the people, the exchange with the locals and our passion are pillars of our team.

How did the idea of your project come about, how did it develop?

The decisive point for Project Wings was that after years of experience in fundraising, the exchange with hundreds of thousands of people, we became more and more aware that fewer and fewer people support aid organizations and that this must have external reasons.

So we wanted to change this. Make it "better" and found our own aid organization. That was the basic idea. Sebastian Keilholz was in Sumatra / Indonesia during the same period. He met a teacher there who collected plastic waste from rivers, rainforests and the streets with his students, cleaned it and stuffed it into bottles after chopping it into small pieces in order to build a wall for the school grounds. Sebastian documented everything and presented the project to us - Leonie, Erich and I. He told us how much he enjoys the project, how great the local people are and about the enthusiasm that prevails on site.

And so it came about that the four of us got together and founded our own aid organization - Project Wings. We wanted to do something that probably never existed before and with which we could engage people and give something back to the environment and society. At the same time, I was writing my bachelor's thesis in SME management and used this to write the business plan for the foundation of Project Wings. Early 2019 was the deadline and we went to Indonesia to see the situation and the project on the ground for ourselves.

From the initial idea of a wall for the school building quickly became the idea of an Ecohostel. This was because we introduced the Ecobrick deposit system. The local people could return their Ecobricks - the plastic bottles filled with plastic waste - to us against payment. Within a few weeks we received 4000 Ecobricks. Especially unemployed and homeless people were grateful for this opportunity to earn money. But also many other people started to clean up their nature and earn some extra money. And we wanted to make it more than just a hostel. If we had already received thousands of Ecobricks in a very short time, there was more to it than just one building.

And so it was clear, we build several buildings with benefits for the locals on one site and that is how the idea of the recycling village was born. We integrated some universities, civil engineers and architects to do building physics tests, so that the plastic is built isolated and protected and based on professional work.

What drives you every day, what are you passionate about?

I've always been a hands-on person and I think that if you have an idea and really want to implement something, you shouldn't spend years making plans and waiting, you should take action. In the sense of: Find a way, not an excuse. The most important thing is to do what you really love, and from that you also get the strength for the daily drive.

If you had to name in 3 to 4 key words, in which areas you change the world for the better, what would these three words be?

Nature conservation, animal protection and humanitarian aid!


Thank you for these exciting insights. We are happy that we can support you together with the staff! If you want to know more, you can find detailed information here on the website of Project Wings.