Honduras is a breathtaking country; nevertheless for June 2016, 65.7% of Hondurans are living in poverty, being 42.5% categorized in extreme poverty, presenting an income below the cost of a basic consumption basket that include food and other goods and services (Honduras National Statistics Institute, 2016). Lack of education, unemployment, gang violence and violation of human rights makes it easy for people to look for undignified and dangerous ways to provide economic resources to their families, deteriorating significantly their quality of life.
Diseases are very common due to the toxic waste and contamination of the environment. Dr. Elmer Mayes, Former President of the Medical College in Honduras explains how trash contains a series of contaminants like lead, arsenic and certain food decomposition processes that produces toxic proteins. Lead produces several brain degenerative diseases, illnesses in their skin, kidneys, respiratory system and digestive system. Eye cataracts are common, deteriorating their vision to the point of losing their eyesight. Parasites, contaminants in water, ground and air, buzzards and other animals are carriers of sicknesses as well. Children are more vulnerable to the consequences of working in this environment, so it’s easier for bacteria and contaminants to penetrate into their system. In a psychological stand point Amar Amar & Madariaga Orozco (2009) affirm that children and adolescents that suffer from child exploitation have a tendency to develop aggressive behavior, attention deficit disorder, general anxiety issues, depression, insomnia, low self-esteem and different phobias.
This is where the trash dump takes place. For decades it has been a place where thousands of families come to search for recyclables materials like plastic bottles, cardboard, tin and paper to sell it afterwards to the closest buyers. Besides looking for recyclables they also look for any kind of food (sometimes poisoned) they can consume and take home. Their work schedule may last up to 12 hours daily and work in hot temperatures without any source of water or a place to rest. Several crimes and extortion are prevalent in this community. Accidents like severe cuts and even death occurs frequently to children looking for recyclables in big piles of trash, which are crushed by garbage trucks.
The income they receive is so low, often 80 to 100 lempiras a day (less than $5 dollars). This situation forces the whole family, including children to visit the dump and work alongside their parents. It’s very common to see whole families through generations working in the dump. Because of the low pay received most of the children working in the dump aren’t assisting school, to cover a full time work schedule. It’s very usual for them to not have any goals for their life outside of the dump. Without any proper schooling, proper nutrition and extreme poverty conditions their dreams are nonexistent.
This is Maria Cristina, mother of Juan Daniel our 16 year old 4th grader. Doña Maria has lived in the trash dump for 7 years. This hascaused her severe depression and several physical illnesses. This is her testimony:
But there’s always hope available for them…
Sources: Instituto Nacional de Estadística. (2016). Hogares en Condición de Pobreza 2016 INE. Recuperado 8 de noviembre de 2016, a partir de
Amar Amar, J. J., & Madariaga Orozco, C. (2009). Intervención psicosocial para la erradicación y prevención del trabajo infantil. Colombia: Universidad del Norte. Retrieved from