Do you know where your children are at this moment? Perhaps they’re in school, gaining the education that will benefit them in later life. Maybe they’re outside playing with friends in the sunshine, enjoying their freedom and forming those happy childhood memories that no child should be denied. Or maybe they’re in their own safe, comfortable room playing on a computer or games console; just one of the many material benefits of living in a comparatively stable and prosperous western environment.
A childhood that nobody deserves
Wherever your children may be, the chances are that they aren’t dressed in little more than rags and are picking their way through a rat and fly infested rubbish tip, fending off gnawing hunger by eating scraps of discarded, rotting food that sits amongst human and animal waste, as they endlessly search for anything of value that might be salvaged. This is the fate of the world’s rubbish dump children, born into seemingly inescapable filth and poverty and forever unknowing of the simple joys of childhood. Children as young as three or four years of age are among the thousands of children in India, Nigeria, Peru, Cambodia, Yugoslavia, the Phillipines and many more of the world’s poorest destinations, whose survival is dependent upon the scavenging of plastic bottles, scrap metal or shoes.
Obtaining these meagre ‘treasures’ is fraught with danger; rubbish dump children are exposed constantly to disease from daily contact with decomposing waste matter, from rat or insect bites or from the ingestion of contaminated food or water. Medical waste, including used hypodermic syringes often lies hidden amongst the myriad other harmful items to be found in the mountains of refuse that are added to each day.
A rubbish dump child’s life is no life at all
Home for a rubbish dump child is often little more than a rudimentary shack of corrugated metal or wood lashed together and situated within the dump itself. There is no sanitation and no medical care for the families who live here. The piles of rubbish serve also as the communal toilet; another health hazard that is simply taken for granted. As a result of these conditions the life expectancy of rubbish dump children is predictably short. Nobody who lives on a rubbish dump has wilfully chosen this life; often the grinding poverty that forces people into such an existence is a consequence of civil war, famine or natural disaster.
There is hope for the world’s rubbish dump children
Not before time, the plight of the world’s rubbish dump children is gaining wider publicity thanks to global media exposure. Initiatives to transform the lives of these children are beginning to bear fruit; for example, in 2010 the Philippine Community Fund, a British charity founded by Jane Walker, was able to create a twenty-nine classroom school on the site of a former rubbish dump in Manila, capable of providing education for a thousand rubbish dump children aged four years or older, equipping them with the skills and knowledge to enable them to escape the cycle of poverty and find a more fulfilling future. Similar projects are gathering momentum around the world, such as one in Cambodia where immigration official and church leader Pastor Sous Sokunthea has been instrumental in organising charitable efforts to send local rubbish dump children to primary school, and in Mumbai, India where drop-in centres and shelters away from the rubbish dump environment have been established to help children toward an alternative, better future.
How to help the world’s rubbish dump children
When the parents of Cambodian rubbish dump children were asked what they desired for their children above all else, the unanimous answer was ‘education’. £7 provides one week’s education – including a filling school lunch – for one Cambodian rubbish dump child; in context, that’s little more than the 2012 price for a pack of twenty cigarettes. Everyone is able to help the world’s rubbish dump children to regain their childhood, obtain an education and live a better, happier life. It’s easy to donate online to charities such as Save the Children (www.savethechildren.org.uk), Sport Relief (www.sportrelief.com) and UNICEF (www.unicef.org) or you can sponsor a child through Plan UK (www.plan-uk.org). Alternatively you might consider taking an active role by volunteering to help with a charitable project such as those organised by Outreach International http://www.outreachinternational.co.uk/cambodia/projects/teaching_children_on_the_rubbish_dump.html). You could even help by volunteering to help educate rubbish dump children yourself at Charity Job (www.charityjob.com).
However you choose to help the world’s rubbish dump children you’ll be making an unimaginable difference to children who, without such aid, in many cases don’t live long enough to see their sixth birthday.
Written by John from SkipandBin.com