These kids from a dangerous town of Paraguay are avoiding violence and drugs by instead joining an orchestra with instruments made from garbage.
“The world sends us garbage… We send back music.” –Favio Chavez
The small town of Cateura has always been known for one thing in Paraguay—it houses the country’s largest landfill dump. The citizens of Cateura have taken the phrase “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” quite literally and they spend their days rummaging through the garbage to find something of value.
Cateura’s state of poverty has caused violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and gangs that have given the town a bad reputation, but there is a sliver of hope in the form of kids who are learning to play orchestral instruments fashioned from the garbage.
It all began ten years ago, when Favio Chavez, an environmental worker who was hired to complete a waste management project, had a brilliant idea. One of his workers, Nicolás Gómez, found some junk that resembled a violin and showed it to music lover Chavez, and the two set out to make it into a real violin.
They collected more pieces of junk, acquired some strings, and used their carpentry skills to fashion the violin and went from there. A cello was constructed from an old oil barrel, a drum from some discarded x-ray film that was stretched, and a flute from a drainpipe.
The two began to wonder if an actual orchestra could be put together using the hand-made instruments. Despite doubts that the local children would be uninterested or too wrapped up in the dangerous facets of the town’s reputation, they sought out potential musicians and the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura was born.
Hundreds of kids have been a part of the orchestra and have spent their time learning how to play an instrument, take direction from an authority figure, perform music, and be part of a team rather than spend their time on the streets.
Chavez has been dedicated to the orchestra full-time for the past four years and his work has paid off. The kids travel around the world and play classical music at sold-out venues, showing the world what they can do despite the odds with their eclectic and sustainable instruments.
Creative Visions, a production company, made a documentary about the children and what they have overcome and achieved. The movie is titled Landfill Harmonic and has a teaser video that reached over 3 million views that you can watch here.
The company also started a Kickstarter campaign that raised money to make the film but now continues to write updates about the kids, the orchestra, and the challenges their community faces.
It’s amazing what the founders discovered ten years ago at the landfill and how it has aided in changing the lives of these young musicians and those to come.
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