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Trash to Cash for Survival: A Closer Look at the Life of Scavengers

Updated on May 7, 2020
Chardie Cat profile image

Chardie Cat is an author and a blogger. He used to work in the fields of PR, Publishing & Internet Marketing. Now, he is a freelance writer.


How difficult would it be to scavenge in order to live?

Each time I see scavengers, my heart is frayed. I understand how difficult it would be for them to survive because it is even tough to live having a regular job, how much tougher their situation could be. They make their living plowing through “fresh” trash, scavenging for saleable and recyclable plastic, cardboard, paper, wood, glass, metal, and other scraps that can be sold. Sometimes, they even find leftover foods in the dump for their meal. It is heartbreaking.

They know that the inadequate earnings from the trash could not sufficiently help in their provisions even for a day. Children, as young as four years old, are sometimes forced to forage on the hill of garbage or the bins each day, hoping that collectively they can earn a little more to help their parents feed everyone in the family—a daily effort for survival. It may be difficult for many people to imagine what it would be like to live in such conditions, but garbage is the daily reality for those who see it as a mountain of treasure that can buy them life.


What can they get out of these piles of rubbish?

Scavenging is chiefly viewed by children as an avenue to earn money. In general, however, children toil for its economic as well as social benefits. Economic benefits involve having money for school, being able to supplement the family income and buy things they want, and having a way to eventually finish schooling and rise above poverty—their so-called favorable means to earning financial independence. Social benefits, on the other hand, include having a venue to associate with friends, or with the opposite sex, and another way of leisure.


Will this exploit change or make a difference in every scavenger’s life?

It looks very simple, right? It’s the kind of work that needs no careful planning, no boss to report to and no typical deadlines. But this feat also comes with great hazards—both physical and social. They often get hurt by sharp materials. They get sick from the extremely changing weather, exhaustion and exposure to hazardous elements from different sources. Competition, intrigue and riots are also prevalent in their work environment.

Objectively, we will see industry, perseverance and solidarity from this group of individuals. On the contrary, they would also consider themselves proud, hot headed and suspicious. Dealing with co-scavengers is one thing, trusting them is another. Most of them have no high regard for themselves until they get education.

You may say, this picture is pathetic and depressing. What would become of a child deprived of the good things and is in the dump site every day, fighting against the scorching heat of the sun, the cold rain, the dirty flies and other parasites to survive?


What lessons can we get from their life and struggles?

You know what? I admire their determination, optimism and willpower to survive. You see, it is very difficult for us to wake up at 9 o’clock in the morning to go to work. But before the sun rises, they are already digging in the dump to get much more than what they need. They don’t use sanitizers and they don’t care if they would get different illnesses from excavating, with their bare hands, what is useful from the ravaged. They were not breathing freshened air in an air-conditioned room, but polluted air just to support their families.

The main reason why I am citing this group of people is the fact that we have so many things to learn from their way of life. They turn trash to cash to survive. How do they do that? Faith, hope and love—the three things I learned from their story. Despite their situation, they have strong faith in God. Whether it rains or it floods, they have hope that the sun will always come out to dry up the sources of their gold. No matter how difficult, no matter how risky and no matter how little they earn, they keep on moving and going because they truly love their families.

So, instead of bragging about your mansion, swaggering about your beautiful clothes or imported perfumes, or boasting about your riches, why don’t you give a little time to think on what you can do to the less fortunate like them? I swear, sharing your blessings and time with these people brings incomparable joy and fulfillment.


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