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    A global initiative from ISWA International Solid Waste Association

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President's Blog | A Guest Post from Timothy Bouldry

Timothy Bouldry is the Coordinator of the ISWA Scholarship Programme. Timothy has been working with young, informal workers on some of the most dangerous places on earth.

28 May 2017 -

The ISWA Scholarship Programme teaches us about the informal sector of recycling.

Technology, market and trade have been an important focal point when discussing the handling and treatment of solid waste in the first world. However, we know from experience that each market is different and every country is unique. So is it’s political, economical, environmental and sociological sensitivities. This is why ISWA has moved in a direction to make space for these issues as well, especially when wanting to include and deal with developing nations.

The ISWA Scholarship Programme was inspired as a starting point for working with the informal sector of persons recycling garbage in open dumpsites of Nicaragua. The program is an exploration for youths working within two dumpsites, La Chureca and Nueva Vida, in an effort to find those children who are willing to put down their waste picking forks and instead pick up the opportunity to study. The concept is to sway the new generation of “waste pickers” from exploring education into the eventual job market away from the dump.

Developing the program was a difficult task, but so far the results have been magnificent. The original idea was to work with 12 kids, but with overwhelming support the #ISWAkids have grown to 43 kids total. Half of which are attending private school and range in ages from 3 to 19 years old. The program offers tutoring 3 times every week. The tutoring program allows us to observe and serve those kids who are struggling the most with their studies. These are usually the kids with the most personal problems at home and this is a way for us to stay updated on what is going on at home as well. We offer English classes 5 times a week. It is taught by a former informal recycler from La Chureca as well and in the last few years worked extremely hard to learn English. Now his level is fluent and he teaches the other children. When thinking about the basic job market in Nicaragua, unless you have a very wealthy education, it is limited. This is why some of the kids are learning basic trades in addition to going to school like knowing English or taking courses in mechanics and nursing for example. The program also has regular visitors and volunteers who have offered counseling, creative workshops, installed a floor for our class, and even helped move a family from their shanty during an emergency situation into a safe concrete home.

La Chureca is currently taking an effort to strictly close off the informal recyclers from entering. Police are present for most of that time. The informal workers sit on a wall (that was recreated to divide and keep them out of the dump) to watch for when the police go to lunch in order to run up and quickly work. This is creating instability in the parents, but the ISWA program is helping with job creation when possible and a monthly food plan. This sudden change has affected the ISWA kids in a positive way because they understand the importance to focus on their studies. They are seeing now that their only hope out of poverty is through eventually obtaining a degree. One of the older ISWA kids was working during the night between 1-5 am and sleeping with his recyclables in fear someone would steal them. Only to be awoken by the police cars arriving. As he ran away, they shot at him and luckily missed. He was doing this to collect money for his sisters tuition for nursing school (As his own tuition is already covered by ISWA). I came to realize this after an interview with him in preparing for his own future. We found a sponsor who is now covering his sister’s tuition (our new ISWA kid) until she finishes school. Which takes the pressure off him and his family to scavenge for her tuition.

Through our experience with working with the children and their families we have learned and fought along with their struggles. Through their difficulties we have understood better why people migrate or become economically dependent on the trade of recycling. This has become important in our initiative to #CloseDumpsites. We know there are two sides to this story and we are working on a solution for all to benefit from. Open unregulated dumpsites are harmful to the environment, as well as the communities working and living in these conditions. In order to close a dump, the true informal sector must be involved in this process. The adaption to change will not be easy, but the result is imperative to our environment, our health and our fellow friends.

There are so many beautiful stories of change and hope regarding #TheISWAScholarshipProgramme and you can read more at:

www.ISWAkids.com

and donate at:

https://www.iswa.org/programmes/iswa-scholarship-programme/

Sincerely,

Timothy Bouldry
Program Director
The ISWA Scholarship Programme 


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