La Chureca was a garbage city, dumped in Nicaragua’s capital of Managua.
A city built of rotting food, burning rubber, chemical waste and debris; inhabited by garbage foragers – many hundreds of them human.
As we drove down a long, gravel road leading into this place that so many call home, the sights and smells that accosted us were unbearable. An already humid air hung with the pollution of pungent, decomposing meat mixed with billowing black smoke from the burning waste. It was tough to breathe without gasping for air.
Trucks bearing Managua’s trash and slaughterhouse remains, filed past us continuously adding to the landfill’s collection, as well as bringing hope and serving up the next meal for los Churequeros.
It wasn’t just the smoke making me tear up. Amid the mountains of discarded plastics and animal remains, the landscape was crawling with adults and children, while scavenger birds swooped down among them and the filth. Discarded lives.
And yet…In the middle of this dump was a school. More than 350 children attended class in the school managed by a devoted family from America, who had the compassion and commitment to help the people of La Chureca.
Our jeep crept along and I was discreetly, but feverishly, taking photos. This particular scene immediately stopped me in my tracks:
Suddenly she noticed me and got up to leave. I had an urge to follow her and got out of the jeep. The girl walked steadily homeward bound and I went with her. I wanted to know more about her and the unbelievable life she was living.
Seeing her here, I realized immediately there was hope for this precious, hurting girl, and many more like her.
As my mind went back to the dump school, I understood it took a brave heart to step in and be committed to building relationships to make change. Clearly there was a need for direction, access to education and opportunities, as well as a consistent, positive influence. I believed at that moment that if we have a “can do” attitude, the task would not be overwhelming.
I knew then we would partner and support the school, as well as a daycare centre and feeding programs. Positive mentoring and counselling were going to be key.
Our hearts break, then we have to do something.