I found it incredible that only an hour’s drive away from La Chureca dump in Managua was another dump, La Joya (The Jewel) in Granada. Here we found children and families scavenging but less of a drugs problem, no hostility, no violence towards us and bizarrely no other projects, NGOs or missionaries. So why is it that on the dump where there are projects the situation is worse than on one where there are none?
I suspect that some of the projects have been such a disappointment to the communities, filled with empty promises of aid and returning with help, that they are now suspicious of projects such as ours.
But who can blame them? At La Chureca they were filled with hope to know that the Spanish were going to sort out their problems but just saw their livelihoods flattened.
Another medical project has gone in and will only offer aid and medical help to those who convert to their church. The place is swamped with missions. I spoke to one and asked what they do for the poor? Did they take food, clothes, medicine, books? No, they read them the bible. In English. Except, of course, everyone speaks Spanish here.
Back on La Joya, it is confusing but maybe also a good thing that nothing seems to have been done yet because it means we can start from scratch and do things in a different way.
So far we have visited the dump, met some of the children who work there, explained who we are, what we have done and what we are going to do in (our ever-improving) Spanish. We met mainly women and children (ranging in age from 3 to 11) wading through bags of food, expressing sheer delight at finding bags of bread covered in green mould.
We went with a giant sack full of mangos, handing them out as icebreakers, and asked them what they needed. They told us they needed boots and pointed out the one ‘lucky’ child with a pair of red wellies. They asked for sunglasses to block the smoke from their eyes, hats to protect their heads from the sun and gloves to protect their hands, as well as other things such as long sleeved tops, school books, pens and food. So these things, along with hygiene kits, is what we are going to deliver to them. We are not going to flatten their dump with promises of new homes, but listen to what they want, then buy it and deliver it.
Howard, a Granada resident who has become a key member of the project came with us to translate and speak to the children. He is one of the only people we have met so far, who had heard of La Joya and had been down there previously to help. He is as taken by the Small Steps Project as we are with him and he has assured us of his help throughout our stay. “I have children this age” he told us pointing to three different children, “It breaks my heart watching them eating rubbish, I would never let my children do this.” I doubt many people would and I think the importance of this project and this blog is to try and get everyone at home to start thinking, ‘if it’s not acceptable for my children, it’s not acceptable for any children.’ We need to start taking responsibility for those who aren’t our own. Essentially, the less children there are out there living this life, the better.
We shan’t ask them to convert or do anything in return, we shall just do what they have asked for, not what we think they want but what they have asked us for personally. We will help them take small steps out of poverty equipping them with the tools they need for this journey because small steps is exactly what it says on the tin.
Now we are busy looking for other projects in Granada that will be able to keep helping the children we assist on the dump. We are looking for established medical and educational projects that the children will be able to go to from the dump and who will be able to continue to care for their needs after we have gone. We are sure they are out here somewhere.
So please keep sending your donations and if you wish to send any of your children’s things they have grown out of or tired of you can send them direct to Nicaragua. Next week, we will post an address to which you can send direct.