2015 FEB – MZ GARBAGE DUMP KIDS

 

Last week I picked up the local Mazatlan newspaper to check out the ThingsToDo section.  On page 3 it listed church services. So I browsed them idly and saw The Vineyard Church. I used to attend Jack Hayford’s Vineyard services in Van Nuys, so I thought I would go along to the service on the Sunday.
Which I did.

During the service the pastor mentioned that on Tuesdays the church makes sandwiches and takes them out to the children that scavenge the city dumps. He asked for volunteers. The woman sitting next to me suggested that if I have never done this before, then I should sign up.

Which I did.

I was up at 7:00am, getting dressed and having breakfast. When I finished brushing my teeth I pulled out a scrubbing brush and started scrubbing my hands and fingernails, in anticipation of making sandwiches that morning. The incongruity of my action hit me – I was making sandwiches for people who lived in the worst possible conditions, so scrubbing my fingernails so vigorously was over kill.

Food assembly line

Food assembly line

I arrived at the church at 8:30am on Tuesday morning and the whole process is like an assembly line.
One crowd are packing water bottles.
Others are stripping and opening small plastic bags that are used to hold the food.
And others arrive with all the food. Buns.  Ham.  Cheese. Cookies.
And the assembly line ramps up.

The first station cuts the buns in half.
The second station slathers the buns with lots of mayonnaise. The more mayo the better.
Then my station – which was me and a 12 year old boy – removed the wrapping from the individual cheese slices and placed them on a slice of ham.
The next station took the ham and cheese and placed them inside the buns.
The next station put the buns and 2 cookies in the plastic baggies.

We repeated this process hundreds of times until we had exhausted the buns.   There were about 20 volunteers manning the various stations.
The church flirt arrived and started chatting up the smiling ladies and bumping them with his hip. I thought, if he hip-bumps me, I am going to whack him!
Then I thought, That’s your problem Julia, you never learned to flirt!  And you will stay single until you do learn to flirt.
I wish there was a course – FLIRTING 101 – that I could take to teach me how. My sister has flirting down pat, and men flock around her like moths to a flame.

Moderator on the bus explaining the history and the protocol of the food program

Moderator on the bus explaining the history and the protocol of the food program

No matter how humble....

No matter how humble….

Anyway, then the church packed us on a bus and while they drove us to the sites, the moderator stood in the front of the bus giving us the background on their feeding program, and explained the protocol.
We could take as many pictures as we liked, whenever we liked.
We were not to give money or candy, we were only to hand out the food that the church had prepared.
As we gave out our goods we had to look them in the eye, smile, and say “Dios te bendiga” (God bless you).  As the moderator put it – the emphasis was that God had provided, and not the church.

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Line of kids, tiny tots in front

Line of kids, tiny tots in front

They drove us firstly to the slums where we handed out the bags of ham&cheese buns and cookies.  We also handed out cups of fresh clean water.  The children are impeccably behaved and when we arrived they were standing quietly in a line with the smallest little tots in front. The adults formed a second line, holding babies.  There was no pushing and shoving, and the children were all smiles.

Cups of fresh clean water

Cups of fresh clean water

 

City garbage dump

City garbage dump

 

Line of food, then bottles of water, then oranges (me taking the photo)

Line of food, then bottles of water, then oranges (me taking the photo)

Then we went to the city garbage dumps where whole families scavenge. These families are not all smiles, especially since they have little to smile about.  The families rummage in the city garbage and collect recyclables like soda cans and plastic bottles and collect them together into black plastic bags. Then the middle men arrive with their pick up trucks and buy these bags of recyclables. The middle men then truck the bags to recycling centers and make a tidy sum. The dump scavengers make pennies.

The city dump didn’t smell as badly as I expected, but it wasn’t pleasant.  We handed out a bun, a bottle of water, and an orange to each person in the line.   We were told that mostly the people won’t smile or make eye contact, but we must do so anyway.
I was handing out the oranges and saying “Dios Te Bendiga” to each.  Some snatch the orange, others smile, some scowl, others say Gracias, other try the English ThankYou, and some repeat God Bless.  I noticed two sneak around the back of the bus and stand in line again for seconds.

Suddenly the recipient of the orange I handed her noticed a soft spot on the over-ripe orange.  She complained to me in Spanish as she poked at the soft spot angrily.  I didn’t argue, I gave her another orange. She kept both!

Each families collection in  bags ready to be sold

Each families collection in bags ready to be sold

The church has a video on their feeding program wherein they interview a beautiful young 16-year old girl who has worked with her family in the dumps her whole life. She never went to school. She cannot read or write and says that digging in the dumps will probably be her life.

I found that I was teary-eyed and kept swallowing the lump in my throat the whole time. By the end of the trip my throat was aching. I wasn’t sure if that was due to my crying, or if I had picked up some rapid fire bug that was going to kill me within a week.

 

Middleman buying the bags of recyclables

Middleman buying the bags of recyclables

The Vineyard Church in Mazatlan hands out 2,200 meals every week in the slums of the city and the city garbage dump.

They also provide schooling by pulling up with a van, setting up desks, handing out books and stationary, and holding classes under a make shift tarpaulin affixed to the truck and 2 poles for shade. It’s the only schooling these children will ever get and the class of about 30 kids range in age from little tots to teenagers – all learning their ABC’s for the first time.

The Vineyard also hosts teams of medical staff from the USA and Canada who spend their vacation time ministering to the sick.

The day was an eye opener!  I have seen documentaries on TV about these poor people, but then I am sitting comfortably on my sofa in my living room, with my air conditioner on, and sipping a cup of tea. It’s not very real in that scenario.

But being out there, touching these people, making eye contact, and smiling at them – now that’s reality.

 

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