Notes from the Dump by Lea-Rae Belcourt
Below the dump, we walked with Scott through a makeshift village of tiny rickety huts built above extreme squalor. Children ran barefoot and mobbed us for the vitamin fortified corn snacks we brought in to distribute. We saw babies covered in bruises from physical abuse and learned that this is just normal here.
We met a frail young mother of five who appeared to be pregnant again. Scott explained that she is dying of Hep B and that her stomach protruded because her liver was swollen. He told us that she didn't know she was dying and struggled with whether he had the right or the moral responsibility to inform her. He was working hard to find placements for her children at CCF because when she died, her children would be in great danger living only with their father. This was normal here too.
Another mother invited us into her hut to meet her newborn baby. Her six year old son had recently been stolen from the dump and sold to a brothel. Again, this was normal here.
"Hell on earth" is an appropriate description of the dump itself. It actually felt like being in a war zone on the surface of a foreign planet. Hundreds of people frantically sifted through garbage as dump trucks rumbled around, creating vibrations that could be felt strongly through the instability of the 100 feet of acrid smouldering garbage under foot. We were told to stay out of the way of the trucks, over sixty children per year are killed by them. If you get in their way, they will not stop. The smoke was so chokingly thick and the scene so chaotic and confusing I was afraid I might not see a truck and understood how this could happen.
I was glad to return to the CCF Community Center where dump children played in the safe haven of the daycare playground and received healthy meals. Here I noticed a withdrawn scabby-headed boy about 2-3 years old sitting on a swing, back to the other children. I said hello, gave him a tiny push and watched amazedly at the expression of pure bliss that overtook his face and remained there for the hour he stayed on the swing. When Seane returned from the dump and saw him she said she couldn't believe it because he was hysterical hours earlier. Apparently he had been found wandering the dump naked, filthy, scabby, and bruised that day. A local said that both his parents were dead, so he was brought to CCF for safe keeping while an investigation was conducted.
By the time we left, he was integrating with the other children and was right in there with the rest of the group, running, waving and laughing after the truck as we drove off.