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Trash to treasure

Published April 27. 2013 09:03AM

By show of hands, how many of you have ever driven around on garbage day (either coincidentally or purposefully) and plucked something off the curb that you thought was "awesome" and gave it new life back at your own homestead?

The term for this practice is "garbage picking" and despite the embarrassment I have caused my children over the years, I can say quite proudly that sometimes, one man's trash truly is another's treasure.

I have seen people take an old tub, toilet or tire and turn them into beautiful flower planters. I, myself have made a planter out of an antique wooden chair.

I have seen old cabinets and dressers transformed into beautiful pieces that now grace their new owner's homes or fetched a fair price at an antique sale.

My best pick by far was an electric Barbie jeep (roughly $200 new in the store) that after purchasing a $35 battery for it, provided two years of pure joy to my daughter and when she had outgrown it, brought even more joy to the child of my friend.

Recently, I read an article about some people in Paraguay who take garbage picking to a whole new level and bring joy and hope to the impoverished youth of the area.

One of the poorest slums in Latin America is the small "city" of Cateura, which is literally situated on an enormous dump.

Most of the residents there depend on the items they pick from the endless mounds of refuse, that they either reuse or sell in order to survive.

The future for the children there is bleak, offering participation in gangs or drug use as their main prospects.

However, amid the colossal amounts of stinking, rotting, bug and bacteria-infested garbage, something beautiful has emerged.

One day a picker named Nicolas Gomez found an item in the dump that, to him, looked something like a violin. He brought it to a local musician named Favio Chavez, and after gathering more items from the dump, they together crafted a working violin.

(In Cateura, a violin can be worth more than a house!)

After more picking and creativity, the pair soon created additional instruments such as a flute, cello and drum, and then decided to form a "Recycled Orchestra," offering children of the slum the chance to not only learn and play music, but also give them hope for a way out of the only life they have ever known.

Word soon spread about this little endeavor and people started to notice.

At the present time, a small group of filmmakers are in the process of making a documentary on the Recycled Orchestra called "Landfill Harmonic."

Producers of "Landfill Harmonic" say that it is more than just a film, touting it as a social movement to show how little things can have a big impact in our communities.

The group is seeking help with funding on the website in order to complete the filming, start new chapters of the program in other poverty-stricken areas of the world, and to send the children in the orchestra on a world tour that would include sessions that teach other children how to build their own recycled instruments.

I tip my proverbial hat to Mr. Gomez and Mr. Chavez for their brilliantly creative minds and their strong desire to reach out to the youth in the slums of Cateura.

It takes something special within a person to not only see that a problem exists, but to come up with ways to try and do something about it.

As I look around at the problems we are facing in our local schools and communities, I ask myself, what can I do. What skills or talents do I possess that could possibly help the children or adults in my community? Where can I make a difference?

While I still haven't fully come to any specific conclusion, I now pass that thought on to the readers of the TIMES NEWS in whom I have much faith.

If you would like to learn more about the Recycled Orchestra or "Landfill Harmonic," be sure to check them out on Facebook and YouTube.

You will be amazed at what you see, and hear.

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