Life in Tegucigalpa's City Dump

 

         Tegucigalpa's city dump is an enormous land fill that covers acres of mountainous land about six kilometers outside the city limits.  Trash trucks and other vehicles arrive in a steady stream from sunrise to after sunset, bringing the city's daily refuse to the ever growing mountain of trash.

            But a mound of trash is not the only thing that is constantly growing at the city dump.  Daily, more people call the dump home...1,200 people at last count.  These are the poorest of the poor, those who can't even scrape up enough capital to sell candy or clothing in the cities bustling outdoor market.  The dump is poverty's last stop, it shows human misery in its starkest form.  The people fight with the buzzards to locate the "best" trash.  Such a thing would be hard to believe, except for the pictures that don't lie.

 

Those that dig through the dump may live on site, or they may live in the shanty town that surrounds the dump.  Their homes are made of the scraps that they find in the dump.  Although some families have been in the dump for many years, it is a transient lifestyle:  the government is constantly threatening to expel them.   Since they have no other place to go, however, they always come back.

 

When we began to visit the dump in 2002, it was the children that stopped us in our tracks.  How is it possible that a young child can make his or her home among refuse?  How is it possible that trash is literally all he knows about the world?  It was the children that convinced us that we should begin to minister in the dump.

 

The children of the dump work as hard as the adults do.  They have two main goals each day.  The first is to fill large trash bags with as much plastic or paper as they can.  Then, near to the end of the day, men drive into the dump with pick-up trucks and buy the bags full of recyclable material.  The middle men usually pay fifty Honduran centavos per pound, or about three U.S. cents.  The kids can make a dollar on a good day.  Their second goal?  To find their breakfast, lunch and dinner among the trash.

 

Disease and malnutrition are prevalent among the workers of the dump.  Most of the children have skin diseases such as scabies.  Additionally, several people have died of hepatitis in the last year.

 

In addition to illness, the people are exposed to biohazards such as used needles and other toxic chemicals that are brought into the dump.  The people rush up to the trash trucks as they come in in order to try to be the first to get "the good stuff".  Several children have been hit and killed by the trucks in this chaotic situation.

 

A smile in the dump?  Amazingly, the children that we work with smile all the time!  Their resilience is absolutely astonishing.  As a group, they are some of the most gracious and grateful children you will ever meet.

 

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:  to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."  James 2:27.  Sometimes, in order to obey both of these commands, you've got to go into the places that are outwardly polluted.  That's the only way these precious children will ever leave the "miry pit" and walk into the True Light!

 

Click on the link above to see our short video about the work in the dump!

 

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