Number of People with Nothing Better to Do

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Cerro El Pino

We took our first overnight visit to the campo this week. It was nice to get out of the training center and see some of the countryside for a change. On the way to the bus station, we stopped by an area called Cerro El Pino, a district of about 20,000 inhabitants in the hills of Lima. Cerro El Pino, in the past, was known for its crime and its horrible garbage problem. The problem - there was zero garbage collection. None. Now imagine living with 20,000 of your neighbors where the means of garbage disposal was taking your bag of trash and throwing it in the street.

At some stage, the good folks at Cerro El Pino got fed up with living in a landfill and did something about the problem. With the help of a non-governmental do-gooder organization, the community undertook a project to clean up the town. The district had to get vehicles to collect and transport the garbage, hire some help, and educate the residents on separating out the recyclables, putting their garbage in bags, and putting it out for the garbage man at the appropriate time. Sounds easy enough but when you’ve lived your entire life just throwing your waste out on the streets, that’s a pretty major life adjustment.

The newly recruited garbage collectors had experience. Their experience was wandering the streets of Cerro El Pino when it was still a shit hole, picking through people’s garbage for glass, tin and plastic, and whatever else they could sell, and taking it to a recycling center for the cash. The committee recruited these folks, trained them, gave them uniforms, personal protective equipment, an actual paying job and, most important, a sense of self worth. They’ve even been featured on popular television news shows around here.

The committee encountered a lot of resistance as they had to change people’s behavior and also had to start charging a small fee to make this a sustainable project. They’re still fighting that battle but it’s being won poco a poco. Walking through the streets of Cerro El Pino (escorted by a squad of armed Peruvian National Police) there was some garbage lying around here and there but for the most part the streets were clean, swept, and well maintained.

As for the crime, I did see a guy with a White Sox hat so it appears there’s still work to be done on that front.

1 comment:

  1. What kind of rent are we looking at here? That red 2nd story condo caught my eye.