A lack of “green space” is the least of their concerns. Trees and shade would seem princely in any of the thousands of slums rooted in landfills across the developing world. Like many who grew up unaware of what happens after the trashman drives away, I couldn’t grasp what a trash dump slum was until I walked through one. Well, before walking through it, actually. The stench of putrefying trash induces nausea from miles away.
On the outskirts of the Paraguayan capital, in a landfill known as Cateura, 2500 families have constructed their homes. Stray animals, flies, and about 500 gancheros (refuse salvagers) welcome the 1500 tons of solid waste and toxic substances dumped there each day. The gancheros, some of whom are school-aged children, sift through the mounds of waste for items that can be used or sold.
In such abject poverty, there is much that the gancheros and their families do not have–economic opportunities, education, basic health care, access to clean water–which is why it’s so incredible to witness what they have done with what little they do have:
At first you think, “oh, that’s cute,” until you actually hear the music emerge from those instruments.
And then you realize, “that’s not cute. That’s unbelievable.”
As I find myself a week from IRONMAN Lake Placid and a few days from my 33rd birthday, these musicians remind me of one of life’s most important lessons. Like the cellist strumming an oil can and the flutist pressing keys made from coins, what we can do with what we do have is far greater than what we can’t do because of what we don’t have.
May you recall this lesson, and the Landfill Harmonic, as you prepare for your next big competition. Now, get out there and make some music!
Please forward this story to anyone in need of inspiration.
For a longer trailer, including more about the “how” of the Landfill Harmonic, click here.
To be further inspired and to learn more about the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay, read more at their (already 100% funded) kickstarter page.
Follow the musicians’ journey on Facebook and get updates on their forthcoming film, Landfill Harmonic.