Today our group was assigned to go to the dump and then visit the corresponding tent city. The dump was a shocking but inspiring place. We were ushered in by security guards and then directed to where we could go. It was another very bumpy ride through large rocks and debris to the top of a large garbage pile where we parked and unloaded the vans. We brought 800 hotdogs and 12 cases of water with us, and that still didn’t feed all of the people there. As we were driving in we noticed many small tarps propped up against large bags full of garbage. My first assumption was that these were constructed to provide shade for the workers during the day. We soon found out that these “shelters” were homes to many of the people there. The dump was covered with men, women and older children (10+) who make their livelihood collecting recyclables and organizing them into large sacks which they return and collect money based on the weight and type of their materials. We were told that many of these people earn the equivalent to $30-40 a month from this work. Our team set up tables at the top of the hill and started handing out hotdogs and bottles of water to any workers nearby. Groups of us then split off carrying food and drink to those who were too concentrated on their work to stop and come to us. I went with a group traveling to the workers clumped in the center of the valley. During this I met a man named David who spoke excellent English. We chatted for a while and I found out that he was deported from California. We chatted about why we were here and we started talking about Christ. he told me that he used to believe in Jesus but then his younger brother died, even though he begged God to heal him, from this point forward he decided that Jesus and him were no longer friends. This was so hard for me to explain, and I struggled to communicate that Jesus did still love him. David did not want me to pray with him at that moment, but I promised him that I would be praying for him on my own, that God would come into his life and that he would once again be filled with His never-ending love. I ask you to pray for David, as well as the many people we saw today. Many of them will spend their whole lives in this environment with little hope of having a much better life. Pray that God would touch them and bless their lives in some way.
After the dump we drove to the tent city, which was very close by. The workers who do not live directly in the dump live in the tent city. In spite of the name the there were not many tents but rather multi-material shacks. As soon as we pulled in we were greeted by 5 small and very enthusiastic children (4-8yrs) who jumped into our arms begging for kapoochi (which is slang in this area for piggyback). We found out later that many of the children there live in neglectful and abusive homes and crave attention because they receive none at home. Part of our group stayed and played with the children while the rest walked around the city handing out food and water. The homes we saw were constructed from materials salvaged from the dump. The poverty was unlike anything we have seen during our days building. A group called spectrum is working in the area and have re-built their small church and supplied the church with drinking water to hand out to the people in the city. Before the drinking water was set up, the people of the tent city were drinking from a contaminated well. It was very sobering walking around the city and really made me reconsider how much value I put on my material items. Families are living in houses smaller than my bedroom, without bathrooms, cooking on makeshift stoves outside. They are eating food and clothing their families with things they have found at the dump. We were told that since the dump is outside of the city many of these people don’t even venture into Tijuana because they feel out of place and judged. Generations are born, grown up and die there. To have and know so much and to meet people who have so little and may never know life outside of the dump really changes your perspective on life. You start to think about the “necessary” purchases that you didn’t really need and the importance you put on items these people will never have.