Children will play....

Trip Start Jul 05, 2010
Trip End Jul 27, 2010

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Casa Cuaquera

Flag of Nicaragua  ,
Tuesday, July 6, 2010

We head to the dumps. Our first day in Managua and our Quaker House host has offered to take us to the Pronica project that provides some respite for kids living in the city dump.  I've heard a lot about the Safe Passage program in Guatemala City and am really interested in visiting the dump site here in Managua...maybe volunteering down the line...perhaps there’s some disbelief in what Ive read about or seen in videos…We’re going with a photojournalist who is trying to bring attention and raise funds for more work there.  So we pile into the 4-WD  and head only about 7 blocks away from the hostel and enter another world. 

Garbage trucks plowing their way through the thick mud…. walls of trash along the sides of the road…shack-like homes made of every material possible, all treasured from other people’s garbage….and lots and lots of people.  Men marking the horizon the whole length of the enormous trash pile, right alongside the scavenging vultures…filling their giant bags with anything that might have value, some with animals to help move the bags…and children all over the place.  Teenagers sorting trash, working as hard as anyone else, little children roaming around barefoot, wearing clothing pulled from the waste piles.  Even a tienda within the dump area, selling Coca Cola and some snacks.  

Obviously we are outsiders but are there by the good grace that Lillian has earned through working with the children here.  A large pond/small lake to our left with a river of trash running into it…floating waste receptacle, a part of Lake Managua when the rains are heavy, also one of the most polluted lakes in the world.  We arrive to find a group of boys looking over the edge of the vertical drop into the pond, their ball has fallen perhaps 40 feet below into the toxic pond….debate over how/who will retrieve it…it is precious to them.  We visit the childrens site, adjacent to the dump and the shacks of the `1200 families that call this place home. 

And there are kids of all ages doing what kids do…..playing.  Amazing to me, in such squalor the kids are shooting marbles, playing soccer, being shown how to make bracelets and small hammocks…anything to keep them occupied and away from the glue sniffing and our of the grip of prostitution or abuse.  They have kids faces, sweet and occupied with their activity, fighting over the soccer ball, designing a shoot-out, looking for hugs and attention.  I wonder what their nights are like, what they eat, where they sleep, what kinds of parasites are consuming them, who they will be next week, next year….how they will survive.  And yet they are consumed with play….this is their reality and they are fully present in it….proud of a new cap, blocking the goal of the Americano, shyly edging their way closer to you.

I can barely take in the totality of this picture…I find myself unable to fully absorb my surroundings…I feel the need to respectfully look away from the piles, the shacks, and direct my eyes to the kids.  No doubt there is a community here….people have their roles, there is a hierarchy, unspoken rules…devised power poles that glean energy from the city poles, a water system that diverts water from the city supply…the residents have carved out their world here.  These are the recylers…their methods are not safe…black smoke from the burning of tires to retrieve the metal inside….chemical exposure….the garbage is brought here entirely unsorted; the valuables are retrieved. 

In recent years, the city haulers began to remove recyclable materials before arriving at the dump…there was less value in the trash delivered to the dump site.  The dump community went 'on strike’ and blocked entrance to the dump by the haulers.  For three weeks city trash built up outside the dump;  desperation resulted in a compromise…. the haulers stopped removing recylclables.  Organization, power, change….this is a community, it has a purpose….lives depend on its structure.  Changing any element changes lives.  A Spanish company has come in to create a ‘better’ dump….more sanitary…safer.   Jobs will be lost, the prostitutes are up in arms and making their voices heard, people will be displaced…into nicer homes but with no help in feeding their families…no livelihood.  Leave the dump alone is their position.  Hard to imagine.

It has started to rain.  We leave before the mud becomes unpassable…its just about at that point.  After losing the face-off with a couple of big trucks we’re finally back on the street.  We get to leave that world behind…we get to wash our hands and eat lunch…we get to be safe.  Don't we all deserve that?

If you want to learn more about Pronica and the projects, you can google up…click on La Chureca for the dump project.  And if you’d like to donate money or spend some time working on any of their projects, there’s that option too.
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licia on

it sunday morning and i have just been to the blog church of life and my tears keep a bay oh your writing and traveling kk i have missed the blog so much like the full breathe into our bodies, the tip of our toes only to witness life for children is hope for hearing and healing, to many floods of tears for the trash we create and all the children we love

kim on

thanks for covering this issue...not many who "vacation" in Nicaragua would venture out to this part of the culture/country. You were able to get at the complexity of it all especially when you said that "changing any element of that community is changing lives" although not always for the better as the prostitutes charge. So that's my academic response.........
My heartfelt response is utter sadness that this depth of poverty exists and what impact it will have on the lives of these children who seem so incredibly resilient. There have been some recent reports on similar communities in Haiti where relief from the earthquake is still lacking.

Barbara on

You are brave to be there and witness first hand what most prefer to be blind to.... It is such a harsh reality for these people.. and the saddest part is what does the future hold in store for the young?. If there is no change, then there cannot be hope and a better future for this community, this family of generations.... they are in a viscious circle of poverty ....

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