Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Down in the Dump

Posted on behalf of Sarah Trapp

Five months into my job with Children International, I was sent to Santiago, Dominican Republic, to get my feet wet. Yesterday, we spent the morning in La Mosca (The Fly) Garbage Dump interviewing sponsored families and others who work there. Needless to say, my feet ended up a little more than just wet.

Starting in the community that lies at the bottom of La Mosca, it took us nearly 30 minutes to reach the actual dump. With each treacherous step towards the heart of the dump, the putrid stench of decay intensified, and we knew we were getting closer. The previous night’s rainstorm made it nearly impossible to navigate the steep, muddy path. Don Antonio, a man who works in the dump, guided us over a creek of greenish “water” and farther into the dump. Don Antonio also served as our bodyguard, offering us protection from men who often come to work intoxicated in order to stand the disgusting, grueling work of sorting through trash day by day.

The sight of the dump is unbelievable, and not in a good way. There is no dirt, no real paths; only what seem to be miles of foul-smelling muck and garbage – medical waste, shoes, plastic, food, diapers, old appliances…the list of discarded items is endless. When we finally reached the center of the dump where several parents and children work, we asked one of our field officers to explain what they were doing. Nuris, a field worker from our Cien Fuegos community center, explained that they come to La Mosca because there is no work anywhere else. They come to sort plastics from metal, to find items to sell, and even to find food. I can’t think of a worse job, but as Don Antonio explained to me, when people are hungry and there is no regular work to be found, you do what you have to do to survive.

It’s dangerous work, not only for the obvious hazard of broken glass and other sharp objects, but also because of the sheer number of flies and other disease carriers, including parasites. And humans aren’t the only ones working in the dump. To my surprise, there was a small herd of cattle lazily grazing on what appeared to be old shoes and other unappetizing rubbish. I quickly made friends with the numerous garbage dump dogs, who without any coaxing made their way to my side and hung out during our interviews.

I can’t tell you how long we spent in the dump. Appropriately, my watch stopped – on what seemed like an endless morning. Some time later, we made our way back down the slippery hills and back to the community. From the pinched looks on our coworkers’ faces as we climbed into the van it was unanimous – we stunk!

We spent the rest of the day interviewing Youth Corps members, a happier task, which renewed our hope for an improved life for our families. At the end of the day it was a relief to return to the hotel and wash off the dirt and grime of La Mosca. The memories of the garbage workers will not be so easily washed away.

The team manages a smile for the camera after spending the morning in the La Mosca dump.


Tad said...

Great article Jennifer. Keep up the good work. Bless you.

Tad said...

Oops... Posted by Jennifer - article written by Sarah - Good job Sarah. You are making a difference!