Yesterday we spent the day touring some of the locations where Chintan is doing on-the-ground work with waste pickers. The images of absolute poverty stay with me even when I close my eyes, but at least someone is really doing something about it.
We first went with a man who goes to pick up waste door to door. He blows a whistle and then people bring their garbage out. He then brings it back to his cart and separates the dry waste from the wet waste as he goes from area to area. He used to collect waste on the streets, however, by working with Chintan he is able to have a regular job picking up from the areas that have a contract with Chintan. Each carry an ID card to help them from being harassed by the police. I couldn’t understand why they might be harassed by the police as they are just carrying garbage. However, just like many poor in the U.S. they are subject for harassment.
From there we went to visit an area called “the Metamorphosis.” Which really filled me with hope. And although the working conditions are not perfect, the concept is brilliant. Chintan has been able to get a hotel to loan out a portion of their garage. Here the wives of the waste pickers take plastic from plastic bags and, using a loom, weave them with cotton and make the most beautiful bags, place mats, rugs and notebooks. They are fed one really good meal from the hotel.
I guess this is the kind of stuff that amazes me. It amazes me that a small NGO such as Chintan is able to come up with creative ideas to empower people and give them hope – I know it gives me hope to see that there is a way to help the poorest of the poor find healthier and more consistent work. If government and others would only invest in the people.
After lunch we visited their work to educate the children of the waste pickers. Unfortunately, it was outside and located on a cemetery. The kids were so excited about learning and so brave to come up and shake our hands and introduce themselves. It is impressive that Chintan is looking at holistic solutions to help at all levels. We then toured an apartment complex that is working with Chintan to compost.
The amount of waste here is overwhelming. The people living in such dire conditions does make one pause to really try to conceptualize what is happening and how we can help people get out of these types of circumstances.
I know that our work with Chintan has a good chance of helping one sector make its way out.
– Lauren Ornelas (Campaign Director, SVTC)