SiKanda

Hope on the landfill.

For 10 years, José Carlos León Vargas has been working alongside the people who live around a huge rubbish tip in southern Mexico. He writes:

I was born and raised in Oaxaca, the second poorest state in Mexico. Seventy per cent of its population struggle under the poverty line. In Oaxaca City, 18,000 people live in 33 informal settlements around a huge landfill site, where up to 300 trucks dump 1,000 tons of rubbish every day. They have come from all over the state in search of employment. Most work in badly paid or informal jobs in the city, but about 200 make a living by sorting waste by hand and selling the recyclable materials.

I studied in Mexico City and overseas, and returned to Oaxaca in 2008 with my wife, Aurelia, who is Italian. We knew that we wanted to create an organisation to work with the poorest of the poor. As soon as I saw the landfill, I knew we had to start there. There were rivers of rubbish everywhere, homes made of recycled materials, little or no basic services. Society saw the people who lived there as filthy and violent.

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