On Thursday, I visited a group of 50 kids at a VBS in an old park at the edges of the dump. The leaders were grateful that a policeman stood nearby all morning, in case of any problems. This is one of the dangerous areas, and we were even told to not use the nearby public toilets because of the drug dealers and glue sniffers who operate there. Although it is only a few blocks from Potter’s House, we were driven there because of the crime. Some of the younger teen boys at the VBS have been approached recently by area gangs pressuring them to join. One boy in particular is struggling with this decision because his father, who had been the leader of a gang, was murdered two years ago by a rival gang.
The most adorable children danced and sang around me with sweet smiling faces. They are full of love and enjoy giving hugs. I cannot imagine the horrors they face on a daily basis. One of the leaders explained to them that like David and Goliath, they all have giants lurking over them: fear, hatred, pain, loneliness while their parents are in the dump all day, drugs, and alcoholism. How sad that these young children must face those issues. Yet the dump isn’t the source of those issues.
One of the metal homes in the nearby neighborhood.
A group of the people who work in the dump explained, “The dump is a blessing to us because we don’t have to be in the streets, begging for money. We don’t have an education. We don’t have another way to make a living.” One older lady said she was able to raise her kids and provide them with an education because of the garbage dump. So the garbage dump provides them with an opportunity even though they have to work hard. Sometimes they don’t make much money, but they are getting what they need to feed their families because of the dump. They are thankful.
(right to left) Anna, her daughter Michelle, and me in her home.
“Many people think we are the waste of society,” said one young man who rummages for valuables in the trash. “And they think of us like poor people. But I think we are the luckiest ones. We are really blessed to be here. Many people come, willing to help us and give us a helping hand, without us having to ask for it.”
These gracious people are teaching me that it’s all a matter of perspective, not about getting rich or even escaping the dump. It’s about an exchange of blessings.
Tomorrow I leave the dump to study the history of this vibrant and picturesque land with magnificent eternal springlike weather. I’ll start in Guatemala City and will post my findings here if the internet allows.