Small Steps is still based in Granada, Nicaragua, where our research into the La Joya dump and its scavenger communities has lead us to some other interesting projects.
Casa Xalteva language school is a great Nicaraguan-run education project that provides Spanish lessons to foreigners which provides funding for English lessons and a day centre for street kids and scavengers.
“Casa Xaltava helps with a variety of programmes to alleviate poverty in Nicaragua and social services for children.” For more info or if you are interested in volunteering check out:www.casaxalteva.org
It also takes volunteers who would like to teach English to the children. It is not only where I have been brushing up on my Spanish but where we had the pleasure to meet Kathryn, an amazing young Canadian woman who has been taking her own small steps with schoolbooks and pens.
With the help of Casa Xalteva, Kathryn supplies the stationery and schoolbooks for the impoverished children attending Jose De La Cruz Mena school, close to La Joya dump. She fundraises in Canada and comes back to direct her distribution project once a year based out of Casa Xaltava.
One of the teachers at Xalteva, Andres, was himself a child scavenger on La Joya dump, he then attended Casa Xalteva and has is no longer living in poverty. He took us to the dump with him and pointed out his brother, who still scavenges there and didn’t attend Xalteva. It dramatically illustrated how education is such an important step for these children.
In building relationships with other organisations, as well as filming the Small Steps Project and taking the stills, Lucas Orme filmed and volunteered on Kath’s project (www.nicaraguaschoolproject.org) and is now teaching English to the street kids at Xalteva.
So inspired were we that we have added books and pens to the next project. Kath taught us a lot about how much the children want to go to school and how difficult it is without any help. Though we want to protect children when they are on the dumps we also want to encourage them to take small steps off it and education is the best way out of poverty. As you can imagine, scavenging does not pay for pens, pencils and school books, it certainly doesn’t pay for shoes and it barely covers food and water.
The La Joya Dump is actually policed and children are not permitted on in the week. I was told that Nicaraguan law forbids any children from rubbish dumps however we have seen that this is flagrantly ignored and not enforced on La Chureca in Managua. La Joya however is policed in the week when they have to attend school. However they take pride in school and it is incredibly difficult and embarrassing for those who can’t afford a pencil and have to attend bare foot. We really hope that our project can help with that and equip them with new shoes and clothes and pens and paper so they can be proud to attend and they don’t end up living their whole lives as scavengers.
Unfortunately children do still scavenge with their parents on Saturdays, because the parents still have to work and they have no alternate form of child care. The next step would be a childcare centre and school for dump children to attend on Saturdays so that they do not have to accompany their parents there. We are currently looking for organisations who we may be able to help with such a project and get the children of La Joya dump off the dump 7 days a week.
We have now been to La Joya Dump five times, distributing mangoes twice and school books and pens once. At the same time we have counted all the adults and children who are there on Saturdays in preparation for our big distribution project.