A lonely scavenger sifts for food and salvageable items in "El Fortrin," a garbage dump that spreads as far as the eye can see.
Like most 8-year-old girls around the world, Beatriz Castillo loves laughing and playing jump rope with her friends. But unlike most little girls who grow up in Western nations like the United States, Beatrice breathes the stench of rotting food and human waste 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The second-grader's neighborhood, the Walter Ferrety community, is less than a mile from "El Fortrin," the city dump for Leó®¬ Nicaragua. Leó® ©s the second largest city in the country. One out of four families in Walter Ferrety lives in the riskiest, most dangerous conditions.
Surrounded by piles of garbage and filth, the people of the Walter Ferrety community have no sewers or potable water and they lack adequate latrines. Additionally, one out of two adults in the community is unemployed.
A Father's Only Option
Pedro Dolores Pineda, Beatriz's father, is one of those living in Walter Ferrety who has a job, but it's no beauty. He makes a living scavenging for his livelihood on "El Fortrin," a mountain of debris.
Each day, Beatriz's father sorts through heaps of refuse searching for and collecting plastic, iron, glass bottles and clothing. He gives the items to his wife, Felicita, who cleans and sells them to interested companies and individuals. For their efforts, the couple ekes out less than U.S.$2 a day.
Sickness and Disease
Pedro is aware of how unhealthy the neighborhood is for his family.
"I remember one time when a number of children got really sick from eating a box of candies they found in the dump," he says. "Their parents had to take them to the hospital. Luckily, no one died.
"I learned my lesson though," he continues. "I do not eat from the waste anymore. But there still are people here who eat the rotting meat and fruits they find in the garbage. They don't have a choice."
Rotten food isn't the only danger in such an environment. Children living near dumpsites often suffer from skin rashes, parasites, diarrhea, flu and malnutrition. Others contract more serious illnesses, including dengue fever and malaria.
A Safe Haven
Thankfully, Beatriz, her little sister, Reyna, age 7, and 78 other Compassion-assisted children who live near the dump have a safe place to play and grow. These children all attend the local Centro Estudiantil Mirnados del Reino Student Center.
Inside this safe haven there are no unpleasant smells. The walls and floors are clean and neat and the children are taught good hygiene practices. Parents are also included in such training. Medical checkups are given to children every six months and special medical attention and follow-up is offered to Beatriz and other kids living in severely unhealthy environments. As a result of such holistic intervention, the children registered in Nicaragua's Compassion-assisted centers receive the opportunities they need to become fulfilled, self-sustaining Christians.
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