Generous Fulham dustman launches charity


A bin man from Fulham launched his own charity on Tuesday, inspired by his experience in Indonesia for a BBC series.


By Tom Allnutt

A Fulham bin man launched his own charity on Tuesday, inspired by his experience in Indonesia when he appeared in the BBC series ‘Toughest Place to be a…’

Wilbur Ramirez, 43, from Cricklewood, swapped the greens of West London for the slums of Jakarta for ten days, in the show which aired in February.

The roaming rubbish collector now wants to raise money for the people he worked with through his own charity, The Wilbur Ramirez Charitable Foundation.

The father of four, who collects rubbish in Fulham for refuse company Serco, said he had no idea what to expect before he left.

He said: “The BBC told me not to look anything up about the conditions out there or the people who live in poverty.

“To be honest I thought I was off on an all-expenses paid dustman’s holiday.”

But he soon realised what he was in for when he set about collecting rubbish from more than 100 homes, using a cart which he had to pull himself in temperatures of up to 50°C.

“It was a massive shock to the system,” he said.

“I thought what I did at home was hard graft with a lorry and the bins all laid out for you but believe me, that was plain-sailing compared to what they do out there.”

For the duration of his trip Wilbur lived with Imam, a rubbish collector in Jakarta.

Imam collects waste, sweeps houses, cleans kitchens and clears out sewers – without equipment or shoes on his feet.

But despite working every day Imam still only makes £9.10 a week and struggles to provide for his wife and daughter.

Wilbur said: “I saw kids as young as six looking through rubbish to try and find food.

“It made me think about my own kids at home and what I’d feel if that was them and I got very emotional – it really humbled me.”

Having teamed up with local Jakartan charity, The Foundation for Mother and Child Health, Wilbur hopes to improve local housing, education and healthcare.

He said: “Imam slit his foot one day on some glass. I said I’d go home and get a first aid kit but he just stuffed a load of dry grass into the wound and set it alight to disinfect it.

“That was his idea of healthcare.

“They’re proud people and they want to work for what they get but nobody’s looking out for them at the moment.”

Cllr Greg Smith, Hammersmith and Fulham cabinet member for residents’ services, paid tribute to Wilbur’s determination.

Cllr Smith said: “Wilbur’s experience was a real eye-opener and proves that keeping the streets clean and tidy is vital.

“We are proud to have someone like Wilbur working in H&F. He is so full of enthusiasm and compassion, and is dedicated to his job – he really is a credit to our borough.”

For more information on The Wilbur Ramirez Charitable Trust ring 03000 123 235.      

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