Day 8 - Safe Passage

This morning was better than usual because we got to sleep in an extra hour. Still, when the lights were turned on violently and we were berated with people shouting at us to get up, it seemed like any other morning. Instead of going to the school today, we were set to tour the Safe Passage facilities. Safe Passage is an organization that helps families that live off “recycling” from the Guatemala City dump to provide them with food, healthcare, and even education.

After breakfast, we set off for the dump. Our first stop was at a cliff overlooking the 40-acre landfill that the dump was located in. It was an image I will never forget. We arrived and saw hundreds of vultures circling overhead and picking through garbage on the ground. We looked down and saw hundreds of Guatemalans sorting through trash frantically. About a hundred yellow trucks are unloading truck load after truckload of garbage with each new one creating a new swarm of people. Our guide Madeline explained how there were no regulations of what can be put in the dump so there is often toxic waste, dead animals, and even sometimes the remains of bodies added when the nearby cemetery runs out of room. Also, toilet paper cannot be thrown in the toilet, so used toilet paper fills their “work place” and causes many medical problems. To make matters worse, the trash releases methane gas and is a huge fire hazard. There was actually a huge fire a couple years ago that covered most of Guatemala City with toxic smoke and killed some of the families that inhabited the dump. Since then, there have been a few rules put in place. The main one is that people cannot live in the dump. Our guide explained that even with this rule, there are still some people who avoid security and live there.

Our next stop was the Safe Passage’s nursery which helps more than 70 kids who were living in the dump previously. There is a playground, soccer fields, classrooms, and cafeterias. It is a true safe haven for these kids that have grown up so deprived. We then visited the main building for Safe Passage where the older kids went to school.  This organization does not only help the kids, they even have a nurse that is open for any of their families any time. Also, twice a year professional doctors fly down and anyone in the community is welcome to visit and get help with their medical problems (often as a result of working in a garbage dump every day). We were fed a lunch of what seemed to be ramen noodles with vegetables at the main building. It was a hit or miss meal with our group as some could not stand it while others loved it. Ben in particular took a liking to it and had about three huge plates of it. When we left the Safe Passage facilities and returned to Antigua, I think everyone realized just how lucky we are to live where we do while enjoying the privileges that we have been born into.

When we got back the house we were given a free afternoon to do whatever we wanted until dinner. Minh, Abe, Ben, and I decided to hit up the ice cream shop to start. After eating, we went to Central Park for a nice game of hacky sack. While we planned to only play for a few minutes, we quickly got into the game and found ourselves playing for upwards of an hour or two. We then went to the market and dinked around for a while until we returned to the park and played even more hacky sack. We met up with some of the girls at the park. Then it started to rain and we quickly made our way back to the house where we found the rest of the group.

We had a delicious but messy dinner of rice and beans which led to Minh and Hannah Arrigoni experiencing something of an ordeal with the dishes. The frustrated yelling rang throughout the house. Now we are all gathered around in the girls’ room talking. Jenny, Abe, Judy, Emma, and Hannah Collins have the curse of being really fast at setting up the computer operating systems and have been working tonight on the five desktops that we are donating to another local school. The school’s computer lab was recently decimated by a flood and we are providing them with much needed replacements. Have fun guys!

It’s getting pretty late and we have been invited to a big pool party tomorrow so I am going to get some rest.

Hasta luego,


Here is Abe with the Kit Recovery Blog!

Today seemed like it would be a milestone for this injury and the journey back to good health. Kit started to peel yesterday, and everyone was optimistic that today would result in serious steps back towards a normal lifestyle. We were semi-correct.  Yesterday’s peeling was bad, today was the worst thing I have ever seen. All of the skin seems to be intent on leaving, and he has yet to manage to bathe.  This is six days, and I have to share a room with him every night. Also, I would love to attach some pictures, but that is not going to happen.  He is out cold in bed right now, and he would probably strangle me if I woke him up with a camera. Sorry everyone, I will get on it tomorrow.