Today was the first of the various reality challenges that we are to encounter throughout this experience. We traveled to the Municipal Dump in Leon where we were prepared for experiencing poverty first hand here in Nicaragua. Yet, it was not as bad as it may have initially seemed, the site of the dump lived up to our expectations.
The dump was a large, open area full of mounds of garbage where there were multiple workers looking through the garbage despite the tough working conditions. These workers randomly show up and are not paid hourly although they work long hours (from six in the morning to five in the afternoon). They separate the trash for the city and are only paid based off of what they are able to find while looking through the trash. Gloves are not provided, and many of the workers we saw did not have working shoes, but flip flops or no shoes at all. Upon our arrival, we spoke to the manager of the dump who discussed the hardworking and dedicated families who work in the dump only to make three to five dollars a day to be able to support their families. He reminded us that they are simply people who are only trying to make an honest living.
We then walked throughout the dump to invite the workers to come and participate in the activities that we had planned. There were children who were working alongside their parents, rather than going to school to receive an education, while many of us even dread the thought of school. They seemed eager to join us, even though our activities would take away time that they could spend trying to make money. I thought that no one would show up, but about 40 workers did and we all immediately began to break out into groups to start the activities.
Some of the students drew with the workers and talked to them to get to know them, as the others played a soccer game. It was so inspiring to see the workers have fun and smile although they might not have had the most comfortable shoes and clothing to play out in the sun. All of those who participated in the game made the workers feel comfortable to be around us and in the end we gave the workers a drink and something to eat. Many of us were worried that they would just take the food, but they received the food with gratitude and it was clear to see that they greatly appreciated it. It was not much, but the workers were still grateful and even saved the food to take back to their children.
It was an amazing experience and it showed all of us to appreciate what we have at home and to be more humble of what we are given. We have learned that the problems and little things that we complain about at home are no where in comparison to the struggles that these workers must face. Not only did we have fun, but we also all grew as individuals by expanding our horizons and by learning that we must put others before ourselves. This was a once in a lifetime learning experience that none of us will ever forget.
(NO PHOTOS WERE TAKEN OUT OF RESPECT FOR THE MUNICIPAL DUMP WORKERS AND THEIR FAMILIES)