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What does it feel like to live in a garbage dump?

dump 2 1 2c9cf4dd
I just returned from debriefing the World Racers in Nicaragua. They had so many different experiences this past month. Some worked with the poorest of the poor living in the garbage dumps. The following comes from Stephanie Fisk, pictures by Tim Weisemann. A black…
By Seth Barnes

I just returned from
debriefing the World Racers in Nicaragua. They had so many different experiences this
past month. Some worked with the poorest
of the poor living in the garbage dumps.
The following comes from Stephanie Fisk, pictures by Tim Weisemann.

dump 2 1A black and gold dog brushes
by my leg and heads towards the other animals – three pigs, another dog and
some chickens – that are relaxing in the shade of a giant tree planted in the middle
of their yard. “Come and sit,” requests Adolfo as he directs one of
his grandkids to bring two chairs for the two gringos.

I sit in the red, plastic
seat with the right armrest missing. Faces crowd around me and I am quickly introduced
to everyone – Karle, Carlos, Jackeline, Mario, Julio, Alex, Manual…and little
Hector. Hector puts his chubby, dirty hands together and holds them out to me.
Not knowing what to do, I just repeat this action and hold my hands up beside
his sticky fingers. This brings a smile to his face. His brown eyes

dump 6 kidslight up.
Next thing I realize, he is leaning over to me and plants a slobbery “

besito” (little kiss) smack on my
cheek. The onlookers all giggle. Each new visit I eagerly looked forward to
this greeting.

While we begin to converse, I
try to make a mental note of my surroundings. There are a couple houses
situated on their property – a small one room tin house and a rusted structure
that is collapsing into the dump. Many of Aldolfo’s kids and grandkids call
this home. Their home is perched across from the dump.

Smoke from the burning trash
is blowing in their direction along with the dust from the ground. It’s not
pleasant, but they are used to it. They work in it every day except Sundays.
It’s the family business…kids and all. Unfortunately, this means work and no
school for all of the youngsters except one lucky girl who is around 16 years

When the garbage truck dumps
the trash on the ground, everyone grabs their stick and pushes the trash over
the ledge. As they sort through the garbage, the recyclable objects are
salvaged: paper, metal objects, bottles and aluminum products. They are sorted
and saved in large white bags until payday – which comes around on the 1st and
15th of every month. These sacks are then carried on their backs all the way
through the trash heap and stored in their house until they are weighted and
bought by the city.

Hector hops down from his
mom’s lap and starts chasing after one of their chickens. Unlike many kids in
the US,
he actually catches it and proceeds to hug it as it tries to get free. After a
short struggle,

dump 1the chicken breaks free and the two year old let’s out a shriek
and hobbles after it. Coughing, he returns to the circle and stands by his 12
year old sister, Jackeline. She pulls his green, grubby shirt up to his face
and wipes his runny nose. Because of the daily dose of smoke and dust, Hector
constantly lives with a cough, as does the majority of the family. Right now he
also has the flu. They are thinking that this time it might actually be pneumonia.
He lets out a little whimper, but is soon distracted once again. This time he
heads off for the soccer ball. This is his life – for this little boy, being
sick is normal.

Karle grabs my hand and leads
me to the edge of her yard. It’s getting dark and we need to get back to the
church while there is still daylight. With no

dump 5 kids reservations, we start our trek
down to the depths of the dump. Carlos, her younger cousin, follows closely on
my heels, leading Tim. Carlos walks barefoot over rusted metal tin cans,
needles, ashes, rotten food. He’s used to it. Carlos, along with the rest of
his immediate family and many relatives – 18 in all – walk this path everyday
of their lives. After ten years, there is now a worn path through the trash to
the other side of the dump…to their income.

As we approach the stream of
dirty water from Diriumba at the bottom of the dump, our “escort
service” eagerly scrambles to make a foot bridge out of the trash lying in
the water – broken cement blocks, tires, boxes – so the gringos can cross over
without getting wet.

dump 4 childJulio, one of the teenage
boys, takes a standing leap and easily clears the water by a foot or two. He
turns around, reaches his hand out for me and guides me across the makeshift
bridge. Other than the toe of my tennis shoe dipping into the water, I make it
free and clear. The rest of the kids skillfully skip on top of the trash and
begin to head up the other side of the dump. This side is a bit more difficult
because years of ash have piled up from burning the trash.

The smoke burns my throat and
lungs. The dust stings my eyes. My foot sinks into the ash. Once again, Karle
grabs my hand and begins to lead me up amongst the burning piles of smoldering
trash. We were warned to be careful of the invisible “hot pockets”
that lie hidden under a fine layer of ash. As Tim and I get near to the top of
the trash pile, the kids gradually wave Adios and retreat back to their house.
We glance back to their side and see a handful of individuals standing on the
edge of their property, frantically waving and yelling “Hasta luego!”

I smile and wave back. It’s
definitely not everyday that they see gringos tramping through the Diriumba

I laugh to myself and think
back to the first day we scaled the trash heap. Never in my life did I think
that I would find adventure in climbing up and down a mountain of trash!
“Be present,” I hear the Lord whisper in my ear. “To truly enter
into their lives (of the families who work in the dumps) are you willing to
experience a little of what they go through day in and day out? Are you willing
to get down and dirty – literally?” Am I willing to sacrifice my newly

dump 7 manclothes…my pride…to walk the path less traveled?

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