The Fifteen Minute Dash

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As the jam-packed open air truck rolled onto the gravel roads of the garbage dump, a man in the military uniform stood up from his chair and made his way slowly over to us. The whole bus immediately knew something was up as we came to a halt. The atmosphere became tense as the air grew still and silent on the bus. Worried glances were exchanged as Christal made her way off the bus with her usual smile. Christal and Judal greeted the military man, and soon got into a heated conversation. I could feel the stares of the participants searching for an answer from us interns for this delay, but I could provide none. Thoughts of frustration raced through my mind as I watched Christal negotiating a couple meters away, obviously negotiating for our permission into the garbage dump today. After what felt like hours, the trio came to an agreement and the truck was on the move once more – fortunately towards the garbage dump. The situation was briefly explained. Something along the lines of us having to get more permission from this other authority figure who is located further down the road. The complication of this pointless problem dreaded on and on. Finally, we were told that our group was allowed 15 minutes exactly at the garbage dump today. Fifteen minutes!

The group was now on a mission. We had 15 minutes on the dot to make sure we made a difference in someone’s life today. As the team raced face first into the mountain of garbage, trying to fill our bags of plastic bottles and bags, Christal and Judal tried to explain our situation to the workers. The team was so frantic trying to fill up our garbage bags, we dug through trash just as frantic dogs trying to reveal its buried bone – garbage flying everywhere behind us. The whole team managed to collect up to one garbage bag full of plastic by the time we had to leave. Distressed and frustrated, we knew we could do so much more if we only had a bit more time. One more bottle, one more minute, 25 more peso more for the worker,s day.

Stories of extreme injustice were told while we dug through garbage. It was said that someone  came into the dump earlier that day, and without reason set fire to the workers’ days of hard work: their bags of bottles. Christal had told us stories of injustice such as this, but no one was ready to first hand witness the extent of this problem. Days and days of hard work through the filthy dump wasted, all due to one displeased, angry man. This concept was hard to comprehend and accept as it tried to find a place to settle into my mind without success. We, as Canadians, are so multicultural and accepting of other cultures, this open display of racism is just.. simply alien.

We weren’t allowed to stay out in the garbage dump today, and it frustrates our whole team of workaholics. But in ways more than one – our experience was more rewarding than an average day at the dump. We saw injustice happen right in front of us, as well as experience the condition of the workers (for 10 minutes, at least). My heart and respect goes out to the garbage dump workers. As the ‘unwanted problem’, these amazing people always manage to make the best of what they have. The workers walk 3 kilometers to the dump every single morning just to make sure their family have food on their table tonight. Living on less than $1 dollar a day. Can you do it?

We are All United Forever.
Michelle – A summer intern

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: July 22nd, 2009