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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.

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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.


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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.


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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?


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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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    • Chardie Cat profile imageAUTHOR

      Chardie Cat 

      11 months ago from Northern Mindanao, Philippines

      I totally agree with you, Lorna. It is just very depressing to see the children in this kind of situation. Such a sad reality that instead of enjoying their childhood, they are working hard to earn a living.

      Thank you for your thoughts, Lorna.

    • Lorna Lamon profile image

      Lorna Lamon 

      11 months ago

      Children will adapt very quickly to any situation and these beautiful children have found a way to survive and still manage to smile. Your article highlights the every widening gap between the rich and poor. Most governments in my opinion are corrupt with very little regard for their citizens. Until this changes throughout the world children like these will never know the joy of being a child. A smile can hide a lot of pain.

    • Chardie Cat profile imageAUTHOR

      Chardie Cat 

      11 months ago from Northern Mindanao, Philippines

      Yes, John...

      We should treat everyone with respect and fairness, regardless of how rich or poor the person is. Here in the Philippines, we have this popular line that states, "Bahala'g saging basta labing." This is expressed in one of our dialects we call "Bisaya", which means, it doesn't matter if we eat banana as long as we are loving each other (especially with family). And true to what you are saying, there are many rich people who are unhappy, but with a little amount of money a poor man will feel like heaven.

      Thank you for your time reading this post, John. I appreciate it.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      11 months ago from Queensland Australia

      What a wonderful article, Chardie. Though I feel sorry that people have to scavenge to survive I do admire their determination and hard work. Look at their faces and you see that they are happy despite their poverty. Many of the mega-rich are unhappy despite their wealth, Thank you for honouring these people with your words.

    • Chardie Cat profile imageAUTHOR

      Chardie Cat 

      11 months ago from Northern Mindanao, Philippines

      Yes, Liz. In fact, here in the Philippines the poor are really having a very difficult time, because we cannot freely move and go to work. Contrary to the subject of equal rights and compassion, not every poor family received government assistance. The situation is really dwindling our finances. Hope aid will come.

      I appreciate your time on this article, Liz. This makes me smile. Thank you so much.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      11 months ago from UK

      You make a very meaningful and challenging point through this article. It addresses the great inbalance between rich and poor. Many criticise the British government's overseas aid budget and argue that it should be spent at home. I think that the rich have a responsibility to help the poor. Sadly it looks like COVID-19 will push many into poverty.

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