Sunday, August 10, 2008
I'm not going to say too much about these girls, because I plan to make a video about them to try and raise money to get them out of the dump and into school. But, here is a condensed version I felt I should put up because every day is one day too long to live like they do. Please contact me if you want to help them, or contact Hanna at her website, www.childrensheaven.org.
These girls, and four others, saw a posted notice about Hanna's work helping orphan girls, so they came to her office to see if they could get help. Some are biological sisters, but all treat each other as family, sticking close together for protection and companionship. All completely support themselves. Some live in plastic houses - houses made of tarps hanging from sticks stuck into the mud, and a few live with extended family in meager surroundings.
Hanna has not yet had the resources to help them, and it haunts her. She asked me to go with them one day as they work so I could record and show others.
They picked me up at her office and we walked a long way to their neighborhood. During the walk, they asked me to stay behind them and pretend I didn't know them. This was for my safety, they explained, as the big boys that work in the dumpsters will take cameras from tourists who try and snap photos. I saw these boys - men, really - riding atop garbage trucks, leering at the girls and yelling to them as they walked past.
The girls told me they would take me to someplace safer than their normal dumpsters to show me their work.
First, we went to one girl's home, which she shares with two sisters. Inside, it is the size of a twin bed. They had lived in a plastic house, but were able to get this one for 50 birr, about $4.80, a month. They will have to move out at the end of the month, though, because the landlord just increased the rent to 60 birr. Looking around at the out-of-work men gathered in the street, I asked if she felt safe at night. She told me they use sticks to block the door and that it helps. None of the girls travel or stay alone.
She is 11 years old.
I asked her what her very favorite food was. Her eyes glowed and she smiled as she said softly, "potatoes."
We went to the dump and I taped them digging for metal (see photo above of nails and other dump discoverd metal), which they sell for half a birr per kilo. Usually, five of them working can find a kilo each day. They also gather pieces of plastic grocery bags to use as fuel to cook cabbage, their main meal.
At his "suggestion," I ended up paying one of the men there to "protect" me as we shot.
The girls didn't get enough metal to sell that day, so I bought them some potatoes, onions and a bag of coal from this lady in the photo, who agreed to hold things until the youngest came back from accompanying me home, which she did. This little girl had a horrible, nasty looking infection in her ear and could not hear, so I took her back to Hanna's and sent her to the doctor.
Hanna and I talked that night about how we could help them with their job - gloves, a tool to dig . . . but it was a depressing discussion as we don't want to help them dig in the garbage all day every day, we just want them OUT of that work.