Shoe boxes aid Children of the Dump

On August 1, members of the Rotary Club of Lakewood and Rocky River joined Rotarians across the United States by participating in an international service project known as “Children of the Dump.”

Shoe boxes for the Children of the Dump in Chinandega, Nicaragua, were filled with toiletries, clothing, school supplies and age appropriate games or toys. Each year Rotarians will travel to Nicaragua to personally witness and participate in the work being done there. They will also help deliver the supplies to the children.

Rotary members purchased items for the shoe boxes, filled the boxes, and delivered them to an area collection facility where they will be picked up and be transported with other clubs’ boxes to Nicaragua.

The shoe boxes serve as an incentive to the children to remain in school. In order to receive one of the gift shoe boxes, the child must be attending school on a regular basis and earning satisfactory grades. The goal is to break the cycle of poverty by providing food, education and programs to encourage good health. The ultimate goal is to relocate the children from the dump to a life of dignity.

It is estimated that there are 800 children in Chinandega, under the age of five, fending for themselves, often competing with dogs, cattle and goats for the food. These children seemingly have no other choice if they are to survive.

Young men are often the first to climb aboard the trucks and wagons loaded with overflowing garbage headed for the dump. Even before the drivers stop with the stinky trash, sometimes bagged and sometimes not, the young men know this could be a grim opportunity for those who act quickly.

They know that in that stinky trash they may find items of value like plastic bottles, aluminum cans or even food. Women will rake the sides of the loads with sticks fitted with hooks, pulling the debris loose and onto the ground. At that point, the rotten mess comes in reach of the young children.

The story of the Chinandega dump began in 1998. Hurricane Mitch stayed over Nicaragua for days, dropping more than 60 inches of rain. A 30-foot wall of water flowed down the volcano, picking up trees and boulders before smashing into a village, destroying everything in its path. Before the mudslide, the town had about 4,500 residents. Twenty-eight hundred remain buried from the disaster.

Nicaragua is the poorest nation In the Western Hemisphere, second only to Haiti. Nicaragua is about the size of Alabama, with a population of 5.3 million. Approximately four million of those people are living in poverty, earning less than $1.00 per day. The adult population suffers from a 33% illiteracy rate with 50% of the children dropping out of school before completing the fifth grade, usually because the parents cannot afford the school supplies needed.