Teacher Fabio Chavez leads a children’s orchestra in a slum built upon garbage. The Landfill Harmonic orchestra gets its name from the word ‘philharmonic’, which means ‘music loving’. Chavez brings his love of music and a passion for social change to the kids of Cateura, a town outside the capital of Paraguay that is built upon a landfill.
Everyday 1,500 tons of trash are dumped in Cateura. The 2,500 families that live around and on top of this garbage suffer from pollution, poverty, drug and alcohol problems, and a lack of proper education for their children. Most of the families living there struggle to make a living by separating garbage for recycling companies, and children often do much of this dangerous work.
Chavez says that the price of a violin for these children would cost what a house costs in Cateura, but this didn’t stop him. He turned to local garbage pickers to find and create musical instruments made from the trash. Violins and cellos are made from oil drums, saxophones are made from water pipes and keys, and guitars are made from cans. With these instruments, these kids play everything from Beethoven to the Beatles.
There’s a famous English expression that says that ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’, but this story isn’t just about the value of things, but also the value of people. Chavez says, “People realize we shouldn’t throw away trash carelessly. Well, we shouldn’t throw away people either.” The Landfill Harmonic Orchestra shows us that the disposable garbage we create doesn’t just affect faceless people. It affects real people like the young girl featured in this video, who says, “Without music, my life would be worthless.”
There is a direct connection between all the trash we produce and the real people that have to live with it. And in the future, it won’t just be the poorest of the poor who will suffer from a lack of clean water, clean air, and clean food. Learn more about The Landfill Harmonic and what you can do to help here.