Smokey Mountain, Tondo, Manila, at its present height rises over seven stories high, a mountain of garbage inhabited by 25,000 people and over 7,000 families. Children roam the streets naked and swim in disease infested waters. People die everyday unremembered. Death is as common as birth, and the cycle of life continues in seemingly hopeless misery.
Everyday, thousands wait for the garbage trucks to come in and drop off fresh garbage from the cities so they can pick through it for recyclables, trade their collections of plastics and aluminum to a junkshope dealer for a few pesos. On a good day, a scavenger can make about $3 USD. On a typical day, fights break out over territories of garbage, children roam the mountains alongside their fathers and mothers helping to supplement the family's income. Make-shift shacks of sheet metal, cardboard, boxsprings, and tires often housing three generations are easily destroyed in one storm.
What hopes do these people have? What reason to survive? What cause to smile at the dawn of a new day?
We lived with the people of Smokey Mountain for a summer and it transformed the the context in which we perceived poverty, brought light to the realities that exist in our time, and convicted us that the world must change.
This is their story.