Photo credit Al Jazeera

A music teacher helps children living by a Paraguay landfill site to reach stardom with instruments made from rubbish.

“To have nothing is not an excuse for doing nothing,” says Favio Chavez. On the edges of the Cateura landfill near Paraguay’s capital, he teaches a group of children to play violins, cellos, saxophones, flutes and drums, all crafted from garbage.

Most people there make their living by collecting and selling plastic bottles or anything they can recycle from rubbish. When environmental consultant Favio Chavez came to Cateura for a recycling project, he realised that the future of most children would be to work with garbage, just like their parents.

“Here in Paraguay, social conditions often limit the ability to dream. If you’re born in the wrong place, you don’t have the right to dream,” says Chavez. “When I was young, music was the first thing that gave me a sense of purpose.”

The news that he was offering free music classes to the children of the gancheros, or rubbish pickers, spread quickly, and many children showed up – more children than he had instruments. For most of the 40,000 Cateura residents, a musical instrument is an unattainable treasure.

“In fact, a violin is worth more than a house,” Chavez says.

When he met Nicolas “Cola” Gomez, a rubbish picker who had some experience in carpentry, they began to wonder whether they could build instruments from the scraps they found on the landfill. Since then, Cola has turned oil cans into cellos and violins, waterpipes into saxophones and X-rays into drumheads.

“When I played the first violin, it was a moment of enlightenment,” recalls Chavez. “Because we realized that it could function as a real musical instrument.” The recycling project that originally brought Chavez to Cateura, failed. “But my failure, as if by magic, caused me to persist with the idea of the orchestra,” he says. “Music can change lives.”

What started as a simple idea to provide music education to children in Cateura is now the cultural centerpiece of the community and a source of inspiration for many around the world. The Recycled Orchestra is a concrete example of how one simple idea can transform lives and provide an opportunity to transcend one’s situation in life.

Journeys in Film produced a documentary, complete with lesson plans, to tell the captivating and inspiring story of the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura

And watch this 25-minute video!

Excerpted from  26 Dec 2019 14:56 GMT