I had the privilege of going to el basurero with some missionary friends of mine. El basurero is the garbage dump here in Guatemala. I have inserted part of an article by Gretchen Kroth explaining in more detail about the dump.
The Guatemala City garbage dump, situated in a ravine, occupies 40 acres of land in the nation’s capital. Guatemala is the most populated nation in Central America, with more than 13 million residents. This landfill, one of the largest and most toxic in Central America, houses over a third of the country’s waste, including trash, recyclables, and discarded food items. There are few, if any, health and safety restrictions limiting the items that can be disposed of in the dump. Medical supplies, including used syringes, toxins emitted from discarded gas tanks, as well as other biohazardous materials contribute to the dangers of the landfill. Human and animal corpses deteriorate amid the waste, exacerbating already poor sanitation conditions.
The margins of the landfill are so heavily populated that they are considered a municipality of the city. Reportedly, 30,000 squatters reside along the perimeter of the garbage dump. It is permissible to erect temporary houses or structures bordering the landfill because the ravine and surrounding properties are public land open to all. Approximately 4,000 men, women, and children live within the squatting communities, scavenging in the dump for personal items, including that which can be used for housing and served up as food, as well as sought after for re-sale on the open market. Those who are unable to find space in the margins of the landfill are considered lucky if they can find a few square feet within its borders and among the fetid trash.
However, after methane gas emitted from the compost ignited a fire in 2005, the city decided to erect a wall encircling the ravine and imposed restrictions on entry into the dump. Other dangers threaten the safety of the workers in the dump, including landslides, which are prevalent during Guatemala’s annual rainy season. 8 adults and 2 children were killed in June 2008, after scavenging in a “high-risk” zone notorious for its landslides. Accidents from collisions with garbage trucks and injuries resulting from broken glass and other hazardous items have also often proved fatal. Following these tragic events, authorities distributed identification cards to those who were authorized to work in the landfill, imposed opening and closing times for the entrance gates, and prohibited any child from entering. While both necessary and beneficial, the restrictions displaced families residing in the garbage dump and left them with few choices as to where else one might live. “Guatemala’s Garbage Dump Education System” by Gretchen Kroth
Because the families are unable to afford education for their children it becomes a never ending cycle of never leaving the dump. I was able to go to a Christian daycare on the outskirts of the dump to help parents that live there. The teachers are giving educational instruction as well as practicing hygiene and the best of all…teaching the children about Jesus. What an amazing group of teachers and workers that love these children. The daycare has 80 children enrolled from ages 1 to around 10 years of age. These children were beautiful and every day they go home to poverty beyond description. Jesus loves these little children and He died for them and it was so cool to be able to tell them that we loved Jesus too and we worship the same Jesus that loves them so much. We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus and wow did I want to be that for these children. Every hug, every kiss, every word was bathed with the love of Jesus. It was an incredible day and Jesus showed me that I have to see others with His eyes, love with His heart, and hug with His arms without condemnation or prejudice of any kind. He has called me to love ALL of His children. I pray that you too, will see with the eyes of Jesus – all around us are people that need His love. Be His hands and feet today!