Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Eye Opening

There is no such thing as "right of way" in Guatemala! Just one of the many different things that I have observed. Along with all of the super cute stray dogs.

These past 2 days have felt like the never-ending week. You know that feeling when 1 day seems to go on forever...well yesterday was extremely long. We got on a school bus around 2am to travel down to Logan airport to catch our plane, and then arrived in Antigua, which is where we are staying, around 3pm here which would be 5pm Maine time. And to make the situation less that satisfactory, I am under the weather. Well actually I was, now I'm feeling rearing and ready to go now.

Today was the first "real" day of our trip. We didn't volunteer today, however we visited the Guatemala city dump. The dump here really embodies the difficulties and lives of a large majority of the cities population. A large portion of the cities citizens work at the dump collecting various profitable items, such as, cardboard, plastic and aluminum cans and bottles. Approximately one third of the items brought to the dump are recyclable items, and with the help of the people who work in the dump, close to two thirds of those recyclable items are actually recycled. The average income of a person who works at the dump, is around 10-20 Quetzales, which is less than $3. Many of these people live on $3 a day per household which usually consist of 10-15 people to a one room house.
While watching the many trucks arrive and dump trash, we noticed that as the trucks backed up people would put their hands on the side of the trucks, almost seeming to guide it to the correct location. Anyone want to take a guess as to why they were doing this? By putting their hand against the side of the truck they were claiming its contents. We also found out that many of the people know the route of many of the trucks and would claim certain trucks because of their routes. The trucks that pick up trash at McDonald are very popular because many people, while looking for profitable items, also look for food either for themselves or their families. 

After visiting the dump we got tours of both the main Safe Passage building as well as the Guarderia, which is the Safe Passage building for children 2months to 6years old. When we entered the Safe Passage facility through their gates, the contrast from outside the walls to inside was dramatic. The Guarderia is surrounded by a slum of Guatemala city. A slum is a vast area populated by the very poor citizens, many of whom work in the city dump. The slums appear over night, one day being a large field, the next becoming a heavily populated area filled with houses constructed out of just about anything to block the wind and rain.

All of the kids we saw and or met are super sweet and adorable, however policies state that we are unable to post pictures of these children due to privacy issues, so you guys will just have to imagine.

It has only been 2 days yet already my eyes have been opened wide to a way of life much different from those I have witnessed in the states. As one of the Safe Passage employees said, "you are not only changing lives, you are saving them."