Trading Trash for Education
We all know that children working and playing inside an active, filthy dumpsite is dangerous, unhealthy and unethical. But yet, it still happens all over the world in developing countries.
ISWA would like to do something about this by preparing and educating next generation youths who would otherwise follow their parent’s footsteps into the trash. The ISWA Scholarship Programme currently targets 40 children who are sorting garbage in dumpsites called Nueva Vida and La Chureca in Nicaragua.
Professional, direct support and care on the ground
For the organization and implementation of this project ISWA has partnered up with Timothy Bouldry, who will be administrating and supervising the ISWA Scholarship Programme on the ground. Timothy is originally a photographer from New York. For the last two years he has been living in Nicaragua, close to the above mentioned dumpsites. He has been photographing and reporting about unregulated waste sites from the informal recycler’s perspective for 8 years. He has explored this topic not just in Nicaragua but also in Haiti, Venezuela, India, Bangladesh and Colombia. His work also acts to present a case about the health risks, environmental factors and economical injustices informal recyclers endure with their hard work and harsh living conditions.
In Nicaragua Timothy developed close personal relations to the families living on ‘his’ dumpsites and helps them wherever he can. When we met Timothy at last year’s ISWA World Congress in Antwerp the idea of the ISWA Scholarship Programme was born.
Meet the Kids
Timothy selects the kids for the programme, sometimes he finds them by chance: “I know Roberto and Aracellys because they approached me out of curiosity. I was investigating the point where informal recyclers carry and throw their found goods over a wall that was built to divide them from the materials. I was in search for a few more kids for the ISWA Scholarship Programme, when Roberto asked me what I was searching for. He is only 11, but he struck me to be very aware and serious like an adult. He led me to a point where the trash is sorted, weighed and sold; in front of his house. I met his mother, who like so many in the area, raise her four children alone after the father abandoned the family. Now it’s Roberto who brings in the income for the family and watches over his sister as they work together in the trash dump of La Chureca. I gave both children a scholarship because Roberto had such a casual, confident and gentle way about him that made it clear how the ISWA Scholarship Programme was right for him and his sister. In fact, Roberto was instrumental in my search for new kids for the programme. They are really excited to begin school and I am honoured to make their acquaintance. When I went over the contract with the mother, she could not read, nor spell the names of her children. This too is a common scenario at trash dumps which supports the importance of education for the coming generation of informal recyclers.”
Esteysi is 8 years old and works in the trash dump, La Chureca, every day with her mother and her 14 year old brother Cesar. The family works in shifts from morning all the way into the night. They risk the dangers of climbing the wall in order to do this. After the wall was built in an attempt to keep people out, the police would come and raid the trash dump. Arrests are made regularly, police have shot at informal recyclers and people have died during conflicts over whose right it is to be there. The mother explains that there is a lack of jobs, a lack of education in the family and all of them need to work together in order to afford their livelihood. The ISWA Scholarship Programme is going to put Esteysi and Cesar in a private school. If the children dedicate themselves to their studies and stay out of the trash dump, then solutions will be sorted out and resolved to compensate their time missed working in the trash dump. Timothy will be checking on their progress regularly and at the end of the year they will receive an evaluation. It is required for the students to have an average grade 75% or higher in order to pass into next year’s programme. If their grades are lower, then we will talk about what may be distracting them from their studies and work with that issue more directly before continuing with private school.
To see more stories and photos from the children, check out Timothy's "ISWA Kids" website here.
Pictures & Videos - Meet the"ISWA Kids"
In the first video meet two more kids selected for the programme, Josephina (12) and Arles (11) by clicking the image, which will direct you to an impressive short film made by Calla Kessler, a student of the journalism department from the University of Nebraska, assisted by Timothy.
In the second video, Timothy introduces us to more of the children who are benefiting from the programme, which will now improve the livelihoods of 40 children.
Click on the videos to see their stories.
ISWA President Antonis Mavropoulos recently made a stopover in Nicaragua to visit the kids from the Programme and check up on the kids progress. Here's a quote from his report, which you can find on the President's blog page.
"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."
Check out the photo gallery below for some pictures of Antonis' visit. (Click the pictures to enlarge)
In the Media
24 January 2016
ISWA Young Professional Member and waste communication expert, Zoë Lenkiewicz writes in detail about the programme and the multitude of benefits in her blog which you can read in full here.
Sponsorships and Donations
With the 20,000 USD donated by ISWA, the scholarship programme can be financed for 40 children for two years, including book, uniforms, transportation, family allowances (in some cases, the child is the person working to provide for the family and they are not able to go to school for this reason), administration and psychological counselling.
If you would like to support the ISWA Scholarship Programme and help to bring more children from the dumpsite to the school desk then we invite you to make a donation. Your support, no matter what amount, is very much valued.
As a reference please enter ISWA Scholarship Programme. Thank you!
Unicredit Bank Austria AG, Schottengasse 6-8
A-1010 Vienna, Austria
Account holder: ISWA - International Solid Waste Association
Account number: 51574 002 593
Bank code: 12000
IBAN: AT83 1200 0515 7400 2593