We finally managed to collect all the names, ages and shoe sizes of the children who scavenge on La Joya dump. Every time we go, there is someone new and the adults keep asking – what about us?
Even though there are children scavenging on Saturdays, we have learnt over the last few visits that most of the children go to school in the week or want to go to school. Very few scavenge other than on Saturdays.
Compared to the dumps in Cambodia this is much better. And considering they are already taking steps off the dump by getting an education, many of them are stuck in a catch 22, whereby in order to go to school they must have a uniform, stationary and school shoes. In order to get the money for those items they must scavenge.
So instead of buying wellies, we thought this time that the shoes we should provide them with, should be used to enable them to take further steps away from the dump, yet still be protective. School shoes are the most expensive part of the uniform, costing between $5- $10.
We decided on hardy black school shoes that could also be worn on the dump and would still offer protection but could be used for going to school too. However we also decided to buy the adults, the parents who are scavenging, wellington boots for two reasons: firstly if a distribution project excludes adults, they become angry and involved and it makes it very difficult to get to the children. If the adults get nothing they may take the children’s things too.
We also included elderly men and women who claimed to have been there for 30 years, and were in flip flops! Some of their scars and injuries were shocking. We managed to buy them direct from the factory on the way back from the La Chureca shoe distribution in Managua the week before and we were fortunate to have the same fantastic team: Natasha, Alex, Hannah, Carlos and Stephanie as well as myself and Lucas.
As we were unable to partner with an organisation for the distribution we decided to do it alone. We felt confident that we had developed good relationships with the people, we did not feel any threat and we decided to ask key dump workers if they would assist with the distribution.
This turned out to be a good way to work, we separated the adults from the children. Giving Wellies to the adults at one station and then at a second, allowing the children to sit and clean their feet and put on their new socks and school shoes assisted not only by our volunteers but also the adults who worked on the dump.
After we finished the distribution, Alex Trejo, one of our volunteers, began working at another organisation called Building New Hope, based back in Granada. When he told them what we had been doing a representative contacted me and we managed to organise for her project to return to the dump with one of our volunteers to see if we could get the children we helped into their reading programme.
This was a really great connection to make, because, though we did the project without a partner organisation, now we have found one who will not only be able to help with ongoing care but who will be able to keep us updated on the children’s ongoing progress and steps out of poverty and into education.