The Recycled Orchestra

“The world sends us garbage…we send back music.”

Recently a friend sent me information about an unusual project taking place just outside of Asuncion, Paraguay – one of the poorest slums in Latin America.

Donación a Orquesta

Donación a Orquesta (Photo credit: laembajada)

The project sprang from a most surprising place  – a village called Cateura, where 2,500 families live on top of a mountain of garbage.

1,500 tons of waste is dumped at the landfill in Cateura every day and the families, along with their children of approximately 500 recyclers, survive by recycling whatever they can find.

So what has a garbage picker, a music teacher and a group of children found amongst this sea of trash, drug-violence, alcoholism and destitution?…Transformation.

Favio Chavez, an ecologist and musician, was working on a project at the landfill when he was horrified by the conditions that the children were living in. “It is not a place where people are suppose to life.  It’s where the city throws its garbage.” he tells PEOPLE magazine.

Burdened, Favio decided to bring something positive into the lives of the children on top of a garbage dump.  He had once conducted an orchestra in a village not too far from Cateura and understood how therapeutic music can be.  But knowing that families living on pennies a day could never afford to buy instruments posed to be a challenge.  So instead of giving up on his idea, he got creative and began to make instruments out of the surrounding trash.  What happens next is amazing.

The Recycled Orchestra.

To read PEOPLES Magazine article on Favio Chavez (the complete story), click here

20 Bible verses on the Poor & Needy...if we are proactive with just one…we would change the world.

Leviticus 19:9-11

9 ” ‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.

Deuteronomy 15:11
11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.

Psalm 82:3-4 
3 Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. 4 Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

Proverbs 14:31
31 He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.

Proverbs 19:1 
1 Better a poor man whose walk is blameless than a fool whose lips are perverse.

Proverbs 19:17
17 He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done.

Proverbs 21:13
13 If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.

Proverbs 22:2 
2 Rich and poor have this in common: The LORD is the Maker of them all.

Proverbs 29:7 
7 The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.

Job 30:25 
25 Have I not wept for those in trouble? Has not my soul grieved for the poor?

Isaiah 61:1
1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…

Jeremiah 22:16
16 He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?” declares the LORD.

Zechariah 7:10
10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.’

Matthew 5:3
3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 25:37-40
37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

Mark 10:21
21Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Luke 12:33(#17 of 20 Bible Verses about the Poor)
33Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.

Luke 14:12-14 
12Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind,14and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

1 Corinthians 13:3 
3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames,but have not love, I gain nothing.

James 2:5 
5Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?


2 thoughts on “The Recycled Orchestra

  1. Donna, This an amazing story and it seems that the people with so little often have inner strength to do so much. Those instruments are great to see and hear. Poor people are often happy people who don’t need 1000 choices when buying something in our wasteful society. We could manufacture less waste from the onset and therefore end up with less in the landfill. We don’t need more choices in products, we just need better products that work longer, but somehow this keeps our economy moving and someone making money.


    • It is stories like this that evokes two emotions from me, humility and thankfulness. Then it challenges me to reflect, am I living in over- endulgence, am I living selfishly, am I helping those who have little? Several things struck me with this story, but the one thing that has imprinted on my thoughts is….we can give more to the poor then just our money and cast offs. We can give them our ingenuity, talents and helping hands.


Path walking is always enriched when joined by others. Won't you leave your footprints along the way?

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