Hello loved ones of our fellow Glimpsers,
Today we visited one of the more looked down upon parts of our society, and a place you would least expect to find treasures. We visited the Santo Doming mini dump, a transition point for the garbage of the National District, a place buzzing with life. Everywhere we looked, men and women were sorting through the trash, while trucks moved in with mounds of garbage. Later on, we also drove through a community of people that made a livelihood out of the trash, literally. Huge piles of trash bags everywhere, mountains of garbage seen in the distance, and people living there, going about their lives casually, families living together in the midst of all the pollution.
First, a lot of us take for granted the trash we throw away on a regular basis. Bags, clothing, shoes, cardboard, you name it, it was there, discarded, unused, waiting to be picked up. That’s what the recicladores, the recyclers did for long hours. Many of these men and women sold what they found at the dump to people that took advantage of them, buying them for only a few pesos and selling it for double the amount. We saw and heard how important the work these people did was to their families. One story we heard that stuck out was of a man who was willing to spend every penny he had to make sure his daughter would have to eat, even if it meant to starve. And the chilling part about all of it was how many other stories there were like this, how many people were willing to do the same, how many put themselves on the line for their families, how they had been hospitalized, and worked for endless days. It was eye opening, seeing how much communities and families relied on recycling, something so many of us take for granted in the States. These people found life in what many people would consider the most worthless pieces of trash. And later, seeing the communities, our minds were absolutely blown. Driving to the main dump in Santo Domingo, we passed through a community of people who lived with the trash around it. We saw people who lived in homes made of scrap metal, children wandering around carrying bits of trash, people in rags, I could go on. And the craziest part of all of it? How little they cared. How normal this all seemed to them. To them, this was everyday life, no different to what we feel in our own homes. They didn’t gag because of the smell, look surprised at the trucks driving by them dropping trash. They were Ok with it all. Almost content. This was all they knew, all they’d probably ever know.
On some level, going to both of the dumps, we had some idea of what to expect. We’ve all heard stories of people sorting through trash to make a living. But today, in the world we live in, people often ignore that aspect of reality. Most of us Glimpser probably do – or did. There they were, men and women, hopping onto trash trucks to find trash that could have the slightest bit of use. But later on, when we were all given the chance to interview them, was when the reality of it all hit me. I heard stories of men being hospitalized, of being cut by fans, having their legs crushed, or getting cut by syringes. Of their families, who would have literally starved if their fathers and mothers didn’t go to those dumps to find trash as early as 5:00 in the morning, to as late as 10:00 am the next morning. You’d think that these people would hate their jobs, but when asked if they were passionate of what they did, they all said yes. One even said that he wanted to form a company to make it easier for the people like them across the Dominican Republic. And then at that point, we knew things had shifted in the group. There we were, in a new and unfamiliar environment, many of us cringing from the very smell, and many of us just started asking so many great questions. So many of us wanted to know, to understand, what those people did and why they did it. We weren’t looking down at them, weren’t cringing anymore. We wanted to take the opportunity we had been given to understand what was happening in these rural areas in countries that people looked down and forgot. The most inspiring person we met that day would have to be a nineteen year old boy, only 2/3 years older than the rest of us. This teen had been working at the dump for years all to be able to provide for his 3 year old daughter. He had passion for what he did and would not rest because he had people depending on him. Being the leaders of the day today made us appreciate how much the leaders did for us the other days. There is only twenty of us but keeping all of us together and focused can be a challenge. Today we learned just how much we take our so called garbage for granted. What we call garbage is treasure to others, but it’s all a matter of perspective. So the next time you throw away your trash remember just how much more value is in it.
-Krystal and Sirach