Hey Everyone! We hope you haven’t missed us too much. Our day started off with us, Maggie and Kathy, waking up at 6 AM to get changed before waking up the rest of the delegation at 6:30 AM. What it really means is that we try to wake them up at 6:30 AM, then at 6:45 AM, once again at 7 AM, and finally the last reminder at 7:10 AM – 5 minutes before breakfast begins upstairs. As per usual, we do a headcount to make sure everyone is present then say “Good Morning Joan” who is our chef. For breakfast we had mashed yucca with cheese sprinkled top, passion fruit juice, eggs with ham, pineapple, and papaya. Afterwards, we had everyone go change into long sleeve clothing, jeans, and thick-sole shoes before boarding the bus.
On the way to the dump site, we passed by another delegation. With the pride we have as a group, we chanted “C3A” to remind them that we are the best delegation in Constanza. The ride was short and as we pulled up we began seeing the smoke from the piles of garbage. Although once the doors opened we smelled the smoke, nobody made a disgusted face as we wanted to show respect to both their work and lifestyle. To paint a picture of what we saw, there was heaps of trash with fumes rising. One side had bottles, another vegetables/fruits, and of course the unsorted, where dump trucks park. It turns out that as piles of garbage are tossed upon one another, smoke forms clouding the sky a bit. One of us guessed that it’s the outcome of sunlight on broken glass. Among the heaps swarming with buzzing flies were workers and inhabitants – both humans and animals of all ages.
Working at the dump site means arriving at around 6 AM – 7 AM working until 4 PM – 7 PM sorting and collecting objects. To make money, options are to find sellable fruits/vegetables and or jewelry to profit off of. Anything and everything is game. Despite being there to support themselves and family, they undoubtedly support one another. Everyone knows each other and passes down valuables as they see fit. Certain bottles can be sold for 4 pesos, but to put it in perspective 49.3 pesos are about 1 U.S. dollar and to search for bottles among the heaps is an equivalent to finding a needle in a haystack. Nonetheless, no action is taken without pride in the workers. Their job is invaluable and tremendously important as they strive to minimize the trash through organizing and reusing materials.
As we asked the workers questions, amazing life stories unraveled. One man who was 38 years old explained how the dump is currently the highlight of his life. He grew up on the streets, constantly getting into fights which led to wounds on his face and stomach. He described a huge scar that remains from below his sternum to over his gut. On top of that, there’s a gun shot wound not far from the scar. January 30, 2017 marks the day that he began to change his path in life. He began making money from the dump site and now owns a motorcycle, despite paying it off still. To him, his bike is a tangible reminder of how far he has gotten from life in the streets. His days are now spent showing gratitude to all that comes his way.
On the other hand, one group’s tour started off with the worker pointing them towards the lush green mountain farms that were close by. Some workers explained how that would be their dream job – working as a farmer. As reference, farmers in California make approximately $4/hour, but here in the Dominican Republic they make far less.
However, growing up/living at the dump site differs from working there. As we looked around there was not a single house in sight – just swarms of flies, families searching for treasure, and multiple smoke fumes. We saw a child there in a red baseball cap who looked no taller than 4′ 5″. We assumed he was 8 years old but decided to ask his age to verify. To our surprise, he was 13 years old which left us baffled. We asked how it was possible and the worker explained how it’s what is expected from a child who grows up at the dump – food is scarce already and to feed a child the amount of nutrients they need to grow is quite impossible. In short, it stunted his growth.
To wrap up our time there, we flew kites with the workers and boarded the bus back to the hotel. We decided to have a silent ride back to reflect on what we have learned from our time there. When we got back, we held a seminar for a group discussion breaking down the roots of poverty and how to address it.
After our lunch of flavored rice, salad, and fried chicken (the group cheered for that specific item), we got on the bus to Cecaini school. Upon arriving we met the principle of the school. She described that the main purpose of the school is to help educate the children of dump workers and provide a safe environment for growth. Many of the students’ parents show little interest in the school. To prevent having their kids not attend, the school provides breakfast, lunch and dinner to the children along with school supplies. The goal is to have no excuse to miss the classes. The principle of five years told us about the progression of the school as well, they have grown from 100 or so students to over 200 from kindergarten to 6th grade.
After the overview of the school, we played with the kids. This consisted of face painting, finger painting, softball, and basket ball. We all fell in love with the kids and quickly formed fun friendships, one even hung on to on to our bus as we drove away. The joy and overall fun attitude of our delegation helped the kids feel comfortable. After a wonderful time at the Cecaini school we went back to our hostel.
The last main activity that we did was work on our CAP project (Community Action Project). We discussed the needs of Barrio de las Flores. We made sure to find something sustainable and realistic. After rallying around a certain idea (we will reveal later) we began to organization phase.
Lastly, we finished the day off with a delicious dinner of spaghetti, salad, and bread. We discussed our day in the nightly meeting and made sure to reflect over the subject of poverty and what we can do to help break its cycle.