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Life Inside the Guatemala City Dump

A boy wandering in the trash at the Guatamal City dump.

By Kelly Shank –

As the trucks come into the dump working rush to sort through the rubble.Each morning at daybreak a steady stream of people and trucks begin their trek through the large green gates of the Guatemala City dump. If you’re lucky, you’re driving or riding on the trash truck. If not, you’ll spend your days working in the dump.

Thousands of people enter the dump every morning, the vast majority working as scavengers within the piles of garbage.

Imagine their normal day: They arrive early in the morning when the gates first open and rush to get a prominent place amongst the trucks. To have the best chance of a good day, they must be first to the trucks. Most importantly, they must be first to the trucks from the wealthiest zones of the city.

As trucks roll in, men run to touch each truck, signifying their right to then sort through the garbage about to be unloaded. Quickly, they rummage through the discarded trash, searching for anything of value—electronics, recyclables, maybe even food. Only a few moments exist between when the truck is unloaded and the bulldozers come through to push the trash onto the piles. They must work quickly or risk being injured.

In the midst of the suffocating smell of decaying trash, unprotected from the harsh weather, and with vultures circling overhead, these men and women sort trash 12 hours a day, hoping to gather enough goods that their family can survive.

Children, like this girl are the most vunerable to poverty's effects.For every one person working in the dump, many more work in the community outside the gates. At the end of each day, large bags are carried out through the green gates, back to homes where the goods are then processed. For some, the large bags of paper and plastic look like garbage, but for these families, those bags are their income source. Recyclables are sorted and bagged to be sold to the big recycling companies while electronics are repaired.

For generations, these families have survived because they’re willing to work hard amongst the trash of Guatemala City. They’re looked down upon and their plight is often ignored.

We believe they are valuable and refuse to ignore their needs. That’s why we partner with local organizations dedicated to meeting their needs, educating both adults and children, and helping families find opportunities outside the large green gates.

When you visit Dorie’s Promise, you have the opportunity to help these families. You will watch them work, hear their stories, and work with our partners. When you know their names, it’s harder to ignore their story.

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