Day 16: Passage sécurisé et Guatemala City

Day 16:

Antigua & Guatemala City,

Today we would not be going to school. Today we will be taking a bus to Guatemala City, the capital, to take a tour of another charity operation in one of the cities dumps. We were roused for the occasion by the now iconic “breakfast is ready, wake up” calls from Mike up and down the hallway. We took one stop before we went to the big city to pick up four other adults who were also going on the tour. The ride into the city was an hour. Or should I say should be an hour. Our bus driver got lost a firm three times and had to ask random people on the street to tell him where to go. Once we got there we were introduced to Safe Passage. This charity is similar to the NGO that runs the school we are working with in Antigua as it helps to provide education for at-risk children and literacy education for their parents. Unlike the school in Antigua there is a very targeted group that they try and help: Dump families. The largest dump in Guatemala city is a few blocks from the school. There is an entire neighborhood of families that live by working in the dump, they pick through the trash to find items of value to resell. They do not use gloves or any form of protection. Even in the bus I felt sick from the smell, many of the team members had their shirts pulled up over their faces. The pollution was so bad that if you looked at a wall 30 feet away it was foggy, there was just particulate pollution hanging in the air. The jobs in the dump do not provide enough money, all of the families in the area live in extreme poverty and face huge health risks. The charity helps to provide education that allows the children to find jobs outside of the dump and to break the cycle of poverty. Of the three campuses we visited one of them was a school for ages 4-9 and was paid for by the University of Washington. The most striking of all of this was the dump itself. The city government made it illegal to take close pictures of it to hide the horrendus working conditions and state of things. I cannot describe how huge it is. They took a huge valley and started to fill it, trash piled hundreds of feet in the air, trash packed down so hard the tracks drive over the mountains to throw the trash off of cliffs, made of trash. The area of the dump could be the entirety of capitol hill for all I know. The charity was really doing a good job of helping the kids and providing the infrastructure to end the communities dependence on working in the dump. After the tour we drove back to Antigua, much faster this time. When we got back to the Hostel we did the regular thing that we do; I could just copy and paste? Yeah. After dinner some of the team went to the roof to stand in the rain and talk, some others relaxed in their rooms and battled for access to the patchy Wi-Fi.

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