On the outskirts of Makassar in South Sulawesi, Indonesia, is the 'TPA', or municipal waste site, where the majority of the city's rubbish is dumped. The site is huge – covering over 14 hectares and receiving over 7000 tonnes of waste every day – and reasonably well managed, with a fleet of bulldozers and excavators that pile up the newly-dumped rubbish into a landscape of towering mounds of waste – Makassar's 'Trash mountain'.
Amongst these mountains of rubbish work a group of men, women and children from the nearby village, who search through the waste for plastic, paper, glass and metal that they sell on to a recycling company. The adults and children work many hours a day, 7 days a week, to earn a basic wage – an adult might earn up to 50,000Rp ($5.5 USD) a day, a child perhaps 20,000Rp ($2.20 USD). Conditions at the site are appalling and dangerous. The adults and children must endure heat and rain, clouds of flies, rotting waste, discarded glass and metal, and even hidden bogs of liquified waste, all the while keeping a close eye on the bulldozers and excavators that work around them. Disease and injury are common, particularly amongst the children who work on the site in flip-flops or even barefoot.
The families that live and work at the ‘TPA’ often have no other choice but to stay. Opportunities to break away from life at the 'Trash mountain' are few and many of the families have been there since the site came into existence 20 years ago. In some case, three generations now live and work alongside one another at the dump.
The Sacred Childhoods Foundation, based in Bali, Indonesia, first visited the ‘Trash mountain’ in 2010. They discovered that the village members had taken their own steps to help the children and sponsored three girls to attend a local school, on the basis that they would also run classes back in the village. SCF now provides further support for the volunteer teachers and the school itself, providing funds for texts books and meals for the children.
The school gives the children an opportunity to escape from the daily routine of life and work at the ‘Trash mountain’ – simply by giving them the time and freedom to be children once again – as well as the potential to break out from the ‘Cycle of poverty’ and away from the site in the future. Education is central to helping these families escape the grinding poverty and appalling conditions at the ‘Trash mountain’.
Unfortunately, the original wooden school building burnt down at the end of 2011. A single classroom has been rebuilt which caters for all the children – sometimes with close to 200 crammed into the small room. If you would like to help The Sacred Childhoods Foundation with this project, please visit their website at www.sacredchildhoods.org.
Taupik working in front of a moving bulldozer at the 'Trash mountain', Makassar, Sulawesi, Indonesia. Many of the pickers follow the bulldozers as they move newly dumped waste, uncovering plastic and metal for recycling in the process.