Wednesday, December 24, 2008

From Trash to Treasures

The day before we departed Guatemala we spent some time in the capital, Guatemala City. With the help of our friends Horacio & Nicole (who lived and worked in there a few years back) we were able to hook up with their good friend Juan & the rest of the folks who work for Aguas de Unidad (the Latin branch of Healing Waters International), a group that Ben volunteers for here in Denver. HWI or ADU (whichever you prefer) is a state side NGO that teams up with churches to help provide affordable, safe drinking water to local communities. Since Ben is a environmental engineer who specializes in water treatment and has always had a desire to help people in need, he was really anxious to learn more about the projects. After all, that is a major reason we went to Guatemala! Not to mention, we've heard tons of great stories from Horacio & Nicole about ADU and their great staff. In 2006 we also visited our friend Aaron (who also works for HWI) in the Dominican Republic, where he showed us some of the sites there. It was actually pretty neat to be able to learn about the differences in the systems and communities they serve.

Locals can purchase a garrafon of water for under $1.

Serving up some delicious water!

After our tour, we headed back to the ADU offices to meet the rest of the friendly astaff. Later that afternoon Juan and his wife Ninette invited us to a delicious lunch at their home. We spent a few hours chatting with them and their kids, Alejandro & Daniela, and sharing stories from our Guatemalan adventures. After lunch they wanted to take us to meet a family that is special to them (and to Horacio & Nicole) that live right by the city basudera (garbage dump). This family of 7 (mom, dad & 5 daughters, ages 1-15) live in a small (almost) 2 room shanty made of wood & tin in a community that surrounds the dump. It could quite have been one of the poorest situations we have ever seen. The 7 of them sleep in 3 single beds that are in the same room as their "kitchen" (a small gas stove, small table top and no refrigerator), 1 arm chair and a television. The parents support their family by working in the dump, scavenging for scraps that can be sold for money. While the parents weren't home when we stopped by to visit, all of the daughters were along with their 2 cats, 2 dogs, and 3 brand new puppies (who all still had their eyes closed)!! The girls were thrilled to have us visit and loved hauling out the puppies and taking photos with my camera. They even recorded a few special messages for Horacio & Nicole.

Baby Nicole (named after our Nicole)

Following our visit, Juan & Ninette took us to view the basudera in it's entirety. At one point in time the garbage dump was on the outskirts of the city, but as the city grew, neighborhoods were build around it, so now the dump is in the center of the capital. Rumor has it that the government would like to move the dump, but how? To get a full view of the dump we had to enter the public cemetery and drive to the back. While it certainly isn't the prettiest part of Guatemala City, it really is something that everyone should see. For a few minutes we watched the trucks dump trash and people sort through it. Aside of the enormity of it, the most astounding part was the amount of vultures flying overhead.

mountains and mountains of trash

Garbage Dump Guatemala City from Krista Lengacher on Vimeo.

We ended our night with a much more beautiful view of the city. Juan drove us (through rush hour traffic) to a mirador (lookout) where we watched the sunset and the glow of the city lights at night while sipping hot chocolate.

Thank you Colmenares Family for a great day!

1 comment:

aaron said...

thanks so much for writing about your experience with ADU. I shared the love on my blog too (
hope you guys have a great Christmas, and we'll see you soon!