11:00pm: It is around this hour, when my group is more than ready to get some rest and sleep before our day tomorrow. But having had the privilege of being leader of the day on this significant date, that I have the honor and strength to stay up and document what I was fortunate enough to have witnessed, because it is really just the least I can do. Today, my delegation and I visited the “city dump” which I will call the recycling center only because I feel that the term dump degrades the job in which these people input work, time, dedication and sacrifice to.
Before anything, my prior expectations towards this place were to see depressed people, suffering and being overworked due to the trash they have to collect. From the moment we got onto the bus up until the moment we arrived and began walking amongst the mounds of garbage that my expectations were met. But it wasn’t until I began observing the people working there that my point of view began to change. Yes, the working conditions were quite shocking and the site of young children working was a complete tear jerker. But seeing the attitude the workers had and the laughing here and there ended up proving some of my expectations wrong. I was moved by the humility and dedication these people bring forth every single day. I find it really important the fact that none of us was allowed to use our recording devices. For most of us this was a disappointment but we must consider that visiting places such as these isn’t like going to a museum. It is a way of life we are witnessing and respect is vital as to not offending the workers in any way. As I was listening to the woman who was speaking to us, I absorbed as much information as possible. According to her, 40 families work at the recycling center and there are a total of fourteen kids ranging from 8 to 13 years. Due to lack of money that the families have, they aren’t able to send their kids to school, mainly being the reason why most just go to work at such a young age. The working shift starts at around 5 am all the way to 12 at night where 12-14 large bags of plastic are gathered which comes to an equivalent of 1200 Córdoba’s. But that money then has to be split between all the workers who gathered those backs which come to 5 dollars. Regarding health, when one enters the center, a large cloud of smoke can easily be seen from miles away. This cloud of smoke comes from the burning of the garbage, but if not done voluntarily, the garbage is lit on its own because of the intense heat that penetrates the metals and plastics and eventually catches it on fire. If this smoke is inhaled for a long period of time, long term diseased can develop for those working in such conditions such as lung problems and pneumonia. There have been other diseases as well such as measles, smallpox, as well as problems in the kidneys. No records of death were exposed but no doubt that people who have worked here thirty years ago have had even worse cases and probably died as a result of the health consequences here.
Hector, one of the main workers here said that the government isn’t able to improve the recycling methods for progress and as well as disease prevention. Six months ago, a program had begun where it provided education for the young kids as well a meal a day, but the mayor denied the continuation of this program because it is a way to promote more children to come and work here and that isn’t a good idea. The point is to decrease the amount of children who work here and so by there not being a school, it is more likely that fewer kids will appear here and work.
Regardless the downsides of working here, the people make the best out of things and take pride in their work because in the end, somebody has to do it and so they’re doing us all a big favor. And by having groups like us visiting them, they gain hope in the sense that someone will soon go back and give back to the community and make a change some way somehow. That is what Global Glimpse does and I don’t doubt for a second that today, many ripple effects began towards wanting a change for these people. It is key to remember what we witness, for if we forget than there is no point. We must remember that we are all human beings and we all deserve to live happily and peacefully. I learned a great deal today and never shall I look at the world like I did before coming to Nicaragua. I will remember this forever and will use this experience for the greater good and to eventually be inspired to make a difference in the near future.
Later on in the day, we had the opportunity to watch a documentary called Wasteland which takes place in Brazil that is about the amazing and captivating transformation of ordinary everyday garbage into remarkable works of art created by the renowned brazilian artist Vik Muniz which also shows us how his motivation to change peoples lives through what those people do with their own hands. His approach towards this goal is one that has never been seen before and one that ended up having a significant ending and solution. In the film we can see how Vik travels from New York all the way to Brazil to witness with his own eyes the largest waste dump in the world. Yet he didnt go to express pity and sadness but went with a posative attitude brainstorming ideas for his project and looking at the garbage surrounding him as crucial pieces that will eventually be part of what will soon give back to the unique people that work there. One of the amazing quotes that came from the workers that most inspired me was “It’s not bad to be poor. It’s bad to be rich at the height of fame with your morals a dirty shame!”, said the vice president of ACAMJG. This quote couldnt have been said a better way. These people arent sad about being poor. They find pride in what they do and have a amazigly posative mind set towards their daily routine and look at the bigger picture of things. These people are kind and have virtues while there are rich people who contribute in crime and injustice. It is better to be part of something good than to be part of something bad. By the end of the movie, many of us had shed tears and realized a new way of looking at things just like Vik Muniz did. He is now someone who has inspired us to move more forward in our contribution to the world.
After the film, we had the honor in meeting the Global Glimpse donors. Each one of these individuals has an amazing story and such compassion towards making a difference in peoples lives on the daily through the provision and funding of programs like this one. Global Glimpse has really opened doors to many and is creating ripple effects throught every single student that is inputting a piece towards a great change. Meeting the donors really was a great opportunity because we were able to express a little bit of ourselves face to face and show them what theyre support and initiative has created. It was an honor having them present in our nightly meeting as well as being able to chat afterwards and learning about eachother. I would love to one day be like one of them and inspire younger students in making a change. I am blessed to have had this opportunity in general and even more blessed in having met the people who made this possible for all of us kids. I look forward into completeing my mission here in Nicaragua and will have more motivation that ever to continue working in helping society in any way I can.
“It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope.” -Robert Francis Kennedy