These Children Used To Pick Through Trash To Help Feed Their Families; Now They Have Played Music For The Pope

April 26, 2017 — The garbage landfill of Cateura, Paraguay has been a minor source of income for the truly impoverished people of the area — adults and children sift through the mountains of garbage, hoping to find something — anything — to sell.

The poverty is stifling. Children rarely get more than a few years of schooling; they are needed at very young ages to help support their families. Education was never highly regarded — it did not change the lives of the locals.

Favio Chávez, an environmental engineer, found himself in Cateura for a job on a recycling plan that would eventually fold. But he did not leave after the job ended. Instead he stayed on, hoping to teach music to the children of the area. Of course, in an area this poor, musical instruments were not an option.

Mr. Chávez and a local man named Nicolás Gómez set about making instruments for the children out of found objects from the landfill. They created violins, cellos, drums — out of the discarded refuse they were able to discover in the trash heap.

They formed an orchestra, and the children from the area began playing music on h

Soon the children who would otherwise never have journeyed out of their own hometowns were traveling around the world with The Recycled orchestra of Cateura, an orchestra whose instruments were created almost entirely from trash.

The group has played for exalted audiences, including royalty and Pope Francis. They have backed up Stevie Wonder, Metallica and Megadeth. They play Mozart, Frank Sinatra, pop and classical.

The success of the orchestra has helped the entire community. But according to Chávez, one of the biggest changes came when the community began to realize how important educating their children is, and what a difference an education can make in their lives. 

The acclaimed documentary Landfill Harmonic, directed by Brad Allgood and Graham Townsley and Juliana Penaranda-Loftus, has won more than 22 awards throughout the festival circuit. 

Landfill Harmonic is available in DVD and Blu-ray. The DVD contains the extras: the official Landfill Harmonic trailer and extras: From Cateura to Oslo: Like Taking a Rocket to the Moon, From the Landfill to Congress: Paraguayan Congress Honors Favio Chávez with National Award, and A Legacy Secured: The Recycled Orchestra on Display at the Musical Instrument Museum.

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