January 6, 2017 -- An Eye-Opening Experience in Guatemala City by Julie Waterhouse and Eliza McClenagan

It was an exciting day for the Guatemala Youth Corps group. We woke up early to take a three-hour bus ride to Guatemala City to visit the dump, cemetery, and preschool. In the morning, we visited the Guatemala dump and cemetery. A man named Jeff Ware from Hope Renewed International gave us the tour. Hope Renewed is a Christian based organization whose goal is to show the love of Christ and help improve the lives of the Guatemalan people. Because of the high poverty rate in Guatemala, there are many people that live in and around the dump.
     
As we walked around, we saw many people either working or digging through the trash. The workers usually make $1 a day and up to $3 on a good day. At the cemetery, the dead people are buried above ground and not underground like we are used to seeing. Much of the cemetery is rows and stacks of vaults where people are placed. An interesting fact about the cemetery that we learned is that people have to pay a monthly fee to keep a dead person there. If the fee is not paid then the dead person is removed and thrown into the dump. To finish the morning, we stopped to have lunch at El Pollo Campero.

After lunch, we visited the Guatemala Dump preschool run by Hope Renewed International. Around 50 children attended it during the school year. We were there on opening day, so there were only about 25 children present, who ranged from about age three to six. We had originally planned some outdoor activities to kick off school starting again, but unfortunately, we had no access to an outdoor space. Instead, we improvised (as we have gotten quite used to doing during our time here in Guatemala) and split up the children into three groups. We played indoor games, such as three-legged race, ring toss, and tossing a balloon around in a circle. The school, with its brightly painted classrooms and positive atmosphere, was quite a contrast to the rather gray, sober color of its surroundings. The children were a lot of fun and very affectionate. Before we left, we handed out snacks and juice boxes.

We left the school at around four o’clock and our bus driver drove us to the Robledo’s house. Due to traffic, it was a longer drive than we were expecting, but the good company, beautiful house, and delicious steak dinner (plus the wifi that actually worked!) made it worth it. After dinner, we practiced special music for Sabbath services the next day before collapsing into bed for the night. It was a very interesting and eye-opening day.

This is a picture of the Guatemala Cemetery; many rows of vaults where dead people are kept. On the left side you can see empty holes, which means a monthly fee was not paid, the body was removed, and thrown in the dump.

This is a picture of the Guatemala Dump. You can see all the trash and people down in the dump working.