What happened in Chinandega, Nicaragua

Young, agile men usually clamber aboard the loaded trucks and wagons first, even before drivers stop. Each new arrival, overflowing with garbage, represents a grim opportunity for those who act quickly.
 
The fetid, stinky trash – sometimes bagged, sometimes not -- may yield items of value. Plastic bottles. Aluminum cans. Food.
 
Women rake the sides of the loads with sticks fitted with hooks, pulling the debris loose and onto the ground. At that point, the rotten mess is within reach of the children. The youngest appear to be 5 or 6 years old.
 
These are people that are totally desperate, and this is their best alternative.  People don’t go there because they want to -- they come because they have to do so to  survive.
 
The story of the Chinandega dump began in 1998. Hurricane Mitch swirled over Nicaragua for days, dropping more than 60 inches of rain. A lake high on one of the country’s volcanoes could not take the extra load, and a wall collapsed.
 
A 30-foot wall of water flowed down the volcano, picking up trees and boulders before smashing into a village. Before the mudslide, the town had about 4,500 residents.Twenty-eight hundred stayed buried.
 
The government, bankrupted by an earlier Communist regime and now facing a country in ruins, moved survivors from the village to land between Chinandega’s open sewer pits and its dump.
 
 

How the Shoebox program is changing lives

 
The Shoebox Project is sponsored by Rotary Clubs.  The members package special boxes and then travel to Nicaragua to personally deliver school supplies and basic necessities to students and new mothers.
 
Rotary has helped to provide equipment, etc. for a trade school for some of the children from the area where we visited.Rotary has had a focus on education for these children in the area and they also  now have classes through high school.  Some of these children who were part of the families in the dump area have now finished college because of Rotary's help.    
 
There is a home for expectant mothers that was started by Rotary. These women come from many miles away to stay until they are ready to deliver.  Prior to this home, these women slept on park benches or wherever they could across the street from the hospital until delivery time.
 
There’s something compelling about a people who’ve lost it all and are living in a dump.  But the children, who work to help support their families, frequently have no choice.