La Chureca (‘the scavenger’), located in Managua, Nicaragua, was home to one of the largest inhabited dump communities in the world when I traveled there in 2007. It had a population of almost 1700 people who were housed within its walls. Over fifty percent of them were children, some of whom were addicted to glue, worked in the trash, and, on rare occasion, were solicited by truck drivers. It was a permanent community where people often worked for many years as recyclers, exposed to illness and environmental dangers. There was a small school, an ill-equipped clinic, and two youth programs that received essentially no funding from the Nicaraguan government. The several hundred children of La Chureca had some access to education, small daily meals, and a couple of safe places to play to escape the dump. Recently, the Nicaraguan government relocated the family’s to newly built housing nearby.

On the surface, their lives appeared enclosed within a trash dump. However, in getting to know them, I witnessed a richer, deeper life beyond the trash. They had a childhood, developed relationships and experienced boredom and loneliness, like anyone else. Despite enduring exceptionally brutal, dehumanizing living conditions, they were still able preserve their dignity and passion for life. This is a small and hopefully enlightening glimpse into their lives.

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TImid shy poor Hispanic boys, one eerie spooky peeks an eye out from pool edge, kids friends play fun in concrete swimming pool filled by rain water at Los Quinchos activities program in city trash refuse garbage dump Managua, NicaraguaA young boy works on a large mound of trash with a bag slung on his back and a long pick fork in order to collect recyclables, such as plastic and metal, to sell. La Chureca, Managua, NicaraguaPoor destitute cute girl kid in skirt plays holds toy jump rope put balloon under shirt pretending make-believe  pregnant behind at chalkboard talking after-school education program in La Chureca city trash garbage dump Managua NicaraguaA mother applies eye make-up and mascara to her young daughter as two young girls watch attentively in preparation for a costume festival at La Esperanza, a free school located within La Chureca, the city trash dump in Managua, Nicaragua.A baby plays with an empty bottle of water that his family will recycle between two shacks where the baby lives.  La Chureca, Managua, NicaraguaPortrait of a girl eating lunch alone with her doll in the cafeteria at La Esperanza, a free school located within La Chureca. Managua, Nicaragua.A young boy amuses himself by hiding and playing underneath a box in his front yard, with the burning city trash dump set on fire across the muddy dirt road in view behind him. La Chureca, Managua, NicaraguaA young semi-nude school girl named Vanessa wearing nothing but underwear pouts in the corner of the classroom at La Esperanza, a free school located within La Chureca. Managua, Nicaragua.Portrait of a young twenty year old mother plays and spends an intimate moment together with her three children in their tiny one room tin-roof shack that is located just feet away from the city trash dump. La Chureca, Managua, NicaraguaA young boy bathes his family's severely underweight and malnourished horse in the front yard of his home. La Chureca, Managua, NicaraguaA young brother and sister tenderly hold hands in their costumes on their way to a costume festival at La Esperanza school with a view of the trash dump in background in La Chureca. Managua, Nicaragua
​Children draw on an erasure board at Juntos Contingo, a program located within La Chureca, Managua, NicaraguaA single mother named Maria and her infant son sit inside the front door of their home at La Chureca. She is a single mother of four. Single mothers are common. Managua, NicaraguaA close-up portrait of boy addicted to sniffing glue  as he inhales shoe glue out of a Gerber baby bottle bought for about 20 cents with a view of the trash dump in background. La Chureca, Managua, NicaraguaA young mother named Olga, 20, breast-feeds her baby with breast exposed in her front yard. Her and her partner Dennis support three children by collecting recyclables from the dump. La Chureca, Managua, NicaraguaGroup poor poverty destitute cute girls kids children squeezed packed crammed table eat free meal lunch food rice beans school Los Quinchos activity program La Chureca city garbage refuse waste trash dump Managua NicaraguaA shirtless boy carries a nearly empty plastic container above his head in the front yard of his home with the dump behind him. Managua, NicaraguaTwo children, brother and sister, take their family's hungry and malnourished horse onto the dump to find scraps of food to eat. La Chureca, Managua, NicaraguaYoung boy peeks one eye out through the barred window in a small room at Los Quinchos, an after school program free prepared meals for hungry and malnourished children who live in La Chureca city trash dump in Managua, Nicaragua.