Every day seems to bring forth new challenges and blessings. I am sure that this is as true in the
For the first three days of the week I’ve made excursions in the morning but then just been relaxing back here in the afternoons. The down time has been nice but I’m itching to do something to serve and experience more of the country so I called my friend Brad and asked if I could go with him to the Colegio Cristiano La Esperanza (
The school is located in La Chureca, the trash dump in
At the beginning of the day I joined Brad while he helped with the preschoolers. I enjoyed watching and listening to them all sing songs and have fun. Their teacher, Norman, a 21-year old Nicaraguan, reviewed weather vocabulary before moving onto time. Brad and I decided to go visit the clinic, located right behind the school, since I’ve never been. The clinic is small and sparsely decorated. Brad told me that only about 10-15 people go to the clinic each day, a staggeringly low number considering the odds of staying healthy in such atrocious living conditions. He explained that the people can’t afford to give up valuable time they could have been working.
We left the clinic and decided to walk around a bit to get a better feel for the community. I am realizing how much I enjoy just simply seeing and experiencing
Ever since March 2006, when I first visited La Chureca, I’ve had no trouble believing that hell must resemble what goes on there. This is not a unique parallel to make, in fact it’s often hard to avoid after experiencing the place. Brad told me many things about the dump of which I was completely unaware and gave me even more trouble in understanding La Chureca. He put it very well when he said, “I’ve always known La Chureca is hell. Now, after hearing what I did yesterday, I think it’s hell for many more reasons.”
My understanding of La Chureca, before today, was that those who live there have no other options. I believed that the residents were financially forced to live there and sort through the trash for a small amount of money. Turns out, for many families, it’s not that simple. Brad told me that a significant number of families choose to live in La Chureca because they can practically escape from the requirements of everyday life. For instance, drug and alcohol use are rampant, as is sex, prostitution, often of young teenage girls, and domestic violence. The police won’t bother those living in the dump, though, allowing all of these activities to flourish. He said that he was told that virtually every girl has had sex, often as a result of abuse, by the start of her teenage years. Although this storyline is certainly not applicable to every family it does make the dump even more confusing and upsetting.
I asked Brad if the kids know enough to realize that there is life outside of the dump. He responded that they do, as they watch tv from time to time, but they don’t believe they are worthy or able to live any other way than they do. Logically, Brad said, the kids have significant problems with self-esteem. Rarely do they receive much support from their parents, who, as one could imagine, are often dealing with many complicated issues of their own. The kids can’t envision themselves doing anything other than following in their parents’ footsteps.
When Brad and I left the school around lunchtime we planned on walking through the dump-city to get to the bus stop. A truck happened to be driving by so we jumped onto the back and held on while the driver swerved to avoid holes and huge puddles. I sat in silence as I witnessed the people of La Chureca at work. The truck made a turn back into the dump so Brad and I jumped off the still-moving vehicle and into the mud. We walked the last ¼ mile or so out of the dump back to the street.
As I walked past people I felt upset, sick, angry, and confused. How does this exist? Before today I thought that the answer was to simply blame to owner of the dump, who rents the land to the government and therefore makes money off of La Chureca. While he certainly deserves a lion’s share of the blame, pinning him as the sole culprit would be irresponsible and ignorant. What about the people who choose to feed their addictions in the anarchist community rather than care for their kids? However, I recognize the power of addictions and therefore realize I should be more concerning with offering support rather than casting blame. What about the citizens of
I’ll leave you with quick anecdote that best describes my experience at the dump today. Brad and I were sitting and watching a teacher lead a group of kids in song. The kids were having a wonderful time singing and acting out the motions which accompanied the song. I looked over and saw one boy, happily participating, covered in flies. He had a substantial cut on his nose which, along with his level of cleanliness, attracted a swarm of flies. Here he was, though, singing and dancing with everyone else, unaware, or perhaps more appropriately, not believing that he, as a child of God, deserves a better life. Watching this boy broke my heart. I think this story speaks volumes not only about the inherent goodness and beautiful nature of children, but also the terrible lie that we often believe; that we’re not good enough or not worthy to be loved, have dreams, or even simply to be clean.
My prayer for La Chureca is not groundbreakingly unique, but I do believe it could have unspeakably huge ramifications. I pray that the kids simply realize how much God loves them and that they can see Him reflected in their faces and in their lives. If only they could see themselves how God sees them; as his beautiful and perfect children, whom he passionately and fiercely loves.