In Their Shoes…
Yesterday’s visit to the garbage dump was quite different than what we had experienced before. Maybe it has been one of the most intense for me. The mixture of emotions that I felt there is difficult to explain, but I’ll try my best…Before leaving, we had a meeting with Nettie, where she explained how we needed to prepared for the day. The people who work in the dump are mostly of Haitian origin and are adults and some children who live in a nearby neighborhood. Because of their illegal status, gathering recyclables in the dump one of the few jobs that they can do, but they make very little money out of it. On that morning it was going to be our job to help these people collect as many recyclable plastics as possible, adding even a little to their daily wage.
As we were getting close to the dump, the smell of the garbage made me nauseous. I told to myself : “Eliana you need to control yourself. You are here to help this people and give your 100%!” As we got out of the truck, one of the first people that approached us was a kid who everybody calls “Chichi,” who Nettie had told us earlier was the youngest person working at the garbage dump. He choose me to work with, and I was really happy to help him. We started to walk, and we were able to talk back and forth a little bit in Spanish. I felt so much respect for that kid. Just to see him there, so young, only 7 years old, very focused on what he was doing, showing me which bottles were good for recycling. While we were searching for plastic bottles, Chichi found a small plastic yellow ball, and close to that, a wood stick. He was very excited about it, we played some baseball there. It was so strange how in the middle of this chaos, he still was a kid, eager to play, eager to have a good time!
In one of the garbage bags, Chichi found a zip-lock bag containing two bread rolls and one croissant. He gave it to me to put it in the bag with all of the other recyclables. I really didn’t understand why but I followed what he ordered. Minutes later the big bag was full and it was time to deliver it to where he and his family kept all the collected recyclables. When we got there, an older woman was sitting on a plastic bucket, trying to have some shade under a triangular tarp. Chichi told me she was, “mi abuela,” his Grandma. He opened the bag and rummanged inside until he found the zip-lock bag with the bread. With such a proud on his face Chichi gave the bread to the grandma. This was something that touched my heart.
When it was time to get back on the truck, I remember how my eyes were getting full of tears, and I was trying very hardly to hold back from crying. That was the moment that everything came together in a mix of emotions. What about Chichi, I wondered, what would it be his life in a couple of years? Would he be able to live the kind of life that every kid deserve? Would he be able to go to school? Would he be a healthy kid? Will he have dreams and ambitions? Will he have more opportunities to have a better life one day? Will he have hope that things could change? And moreover, how many Chichi’s are there or will be there very soon? How many will have the same future? I left that place with a feeling of high respect for these people, and I realized that a plastic bottle is never going to look the same to me again.
Eliana – LiveDifferent Volunteer, Domincan Republic Christmas 2012