As the temperatures soared into the forties in Nicaragua and the volunteers had returned to Europe, we headed to northern Nicaragua to start editing the hours and hours of footage we had filmed during the dump projects in Managua and Granada. We arrived in Jiquilillo and within moments of getting off the back of the truck we met the owner of the place where we were staying, Donald ‘Monty’ Montgomery.
Before we had even put down our equipment Monty was full of things to tell us. He had heard about our project and guess what? Yes that’s right, he knew of yet another dump, in Chinandega. He asked if he thought we could help there and told us of his plans for The Table of The Community project and it’s long-term provision for the dump community.
Monty runs a surf camp which caters for volunteers who want to spend their ‘holidays’ giving something back in poor and rural communities. In the small area he was based he had, with the local community and business partner Gerry, already built a health centre, a community centre run by a women’s co-operative and was half way through building a school.
We were really impressed with Monty, his motiveless sincerity and his need to help and to give back. As a former teacher, his drive to help with improving education was fantastic. Monty knew all about Small Steps Project and what we do and wanted to show us the dump in Chinandega, where a whole village had been displaced and rehoused, sandwiched between the city’s municipal dump site, it’s grave yard and…it’s sewage system.
Obviously we went to see the rubbish dump and, like with the others, there were small children scavenging, many of them were completely covered in black soot from burning copper wire. The difference between this dump and others that we have been to was the community of dump dwellers. The dump had a large organised village, very different from the ghetto village of La Chureca, and adjacent to the dump was some clean land, which had been donated to Monty and his business partner, Gerry, on which they could build a medical centre, next to the small classroom/school that was already there.
What was good about the location was that it was just far enough from the actual dump site to be safe but near enough to make it accessible to the scavenger community, who survived from it.
We visited the Chinandega dump twice. The first time to take the now standard sackfuls of fresh fruit (with peel so it can be kept clean!) and spoke to people about what they needed and how their lives could be improved. The second time we went with a dozen volunteers to aid a feeding programme.
Partnering with Monty, our long-term plan for the area is to build a health centre out of two of the massive shipping containers which brought donations to Nicaragua from a group of firemen in Canada. This, we thought, was inspired as one of the biggest problems for us is not having a safe environment from which to do the distribution from. We hope that when this medical centre is built, not only will families and children be able to receive medical attention but it will have the added bonus of acting as an excellent place from which to do a shoe and emergency aid distribution.
The Chinandega Table of The Community Project starts this summer so if anyone reading this is interested in helping with the distribution of hygiene kits, shoes and clothing or if there are medics that want to volunteer at the medical centre, we would love to hear from you.
Photographs by Lucas Orme