In September Antonis Mavropoulos has been elected the new ISWA President. During his first weeks in office he already represented ISWA on various events in Macedonia, Israel, USA, Nicaragua and Colombia. In his first blog Antonis reports on his trip to Nicaragua two days ago where he visited the kids from the ISWA Scholarship Programme #tradingtrashforeducation – an encounter which obviously really touched him…
Two days ago, I completed my mission to Managua, Nicaragua. Together with Timothy Bouldry, we visited two dumpsites, La Chureca and Nueva Vida, in order to meet the 40 kids (and their families) that participate in the ISWA Scholarship Programme (initiated by David Newman at ISWA’s 2015 Annual Congress). For those who are not familiar, the programme (supervised by Timothy Bouldry on behalf of ISWA) aims to exchange child labor in the dumpsites with proper education in schools and descent food.
Meeting the kids, I realized that there is a very practical way to eliminate child labor in dumpsites. As Gilma, a 95 years old informal recycler who was working in La Chureca for more than 50 years, explained me “If they go to school, they will not come back to the dump”.
Fernanda, a 6 years old girl that will join ISWA’s program next year, gathered carefully 10 purple flowers from the dumpsite and brought them to me as an expression of her thankfulness for the opportunity ISWA offers to her life.
I played with Norlan and Peter, 4 and 8 years old boys, my personal guides in Nueva Vida, who were experts in identifying watermelons that grow inside the dump.
I paid my respect to Tupan, an 18 years old English teacher who grew up in the dumpsites as informal recycler, who has dedicated his life to educate informal recyclers’ kids in English. He showed me the introduction of the book he prepares and I was shocked by the phrase “This book is realized thanks to God and ISWA”.
I spent 6 great hours meeting all the ISWA kids in a well-organized event in Villa Guadelupe, the biggest informal settlement in Managua where roughly 5,000 recyclers have set their houses.
With the help of Timothy Bouldry and Tupan, we shared moments of their daily lives, I dealt with their parents about the vast survival problems they face, we discussed the health problems related with their daily lives and we addressed the challenge of education for their kids. Timothy Bouldry awarded the four best paintings related to ISWA’s Scholarship programs, and we had a great time trying to identify the best paintings.
During the days I spent with them, visiting their families and walking at the dumpsites, I felt shocked, surprised, and emotional. But I also felt proud for ISWA and blissful, because our Scholarship Programme creates a real bridge out of poverty, a real path towards a better future. Access to education and broader opportunities is the compass that navigates those kids out of the cycle of generational informal recycling.
ISWA goes on war against dumpsites; each and every kid living and working in a dumpsite is a hostage that must be liberated. Flying back from Managua, I was thinking that the real added value is not only about those 40 kids. It is the example given to thousands of families; it is about the families that those kids will sooner or later create; it is the demonstration of practices that must be adopted by local, regional and national authorities.
With our Scholarship Programme we highlight that the elimination of dumpsites will result in substantial social, health, environmental and economic benefits. We signal that there are practical solutions not only for the technical, but also for the financial, the governance and the social challenges involved in the effort to close the world’s dumpsites. Actually, this is exactly the content of our recent report Roadmap for closing waste dumpsites – the world’s most polluted places.
So if you want to join ISWA’s war against dumpsites, it’s really simple. You can start by donating or raising funds for ISWA’s Scholarship Programme. I am asking all ISWA members and friends, National Members, companies and individuals to contribute to our Scholarship Programme.
It is as easy as pressing this link and donate the amount you can afford for the programme. Please speak to your companies and organizations and ask them to contribute. We need only 3 euros per kid per day to divert kids from the dumpsites, drive them to education and ensure proper food for them.
Closing the world’s dumpsites is not just a matter of fixing waste problems. It is a matter of protecting public health and our environment; it is a matter of improving the quality of lives for billions of the Earth’s inhabitants. It’s about people, not waste!