Beyond the Walls partners with Potter’s House Association, a nonprofit organization that serves the 11,000 people, more than half of whom are children, who live and work in the Guatemala City garbage dump. They are derogatorily called scavengers by the locals as they sustain themselves by picking through the garbage in hopes of finding food to eat, materials to use in building their houses, and bits of refuse that they can sell for pennies. Most of them earn less than $5.00 a day.
A documentary film about them, called Recycled Life, which was nominated for an Academy Award in 2007, gives an excellent picture of their lives. As tempting as it is to take the easy way out and just send money, we know that handouts are only a temporary fix. So we have partnered with Potter’s House Association, a Guatemalan nonprofit located less than 50 yards from the dump, which has been working for 27 years to equip the “Treasures” for life beyond the garbage through education, micro-enterprise, personal development, community support, and health care programs.
In 2013, 150 Beyond the Walls volunteers built 15 concrete-block houses, renovated three existing houses, offered a medical clinic, ran sports clinics and other child-oriented activities, and went door-to-door personally delivering bags of groceries to families. Beyond the Walls has committed to sponsoring a half-day enrichment and tutoring program for two entire classes in the Potter’s House Education Program. We’ve gotten to know these children and our volunteers continue building relationships that we hope will endure long past the day they graduate and enter secondary schools.
In 2007, Potter’s House set a goal of 100 block houses built in the dump community by 2014. In July of 2013, Beyond the Walls teams built the 100th house–a year ahead of schedule–and in reviewing their records, Potter’s House confirmed that our volunteers had built at least half of those.