Landfill Harmonic Orchestra

Landfill Harmonic Orchestra

Something truly wonderful has happened to twenty lucky children in the extremely poverty stricken area of Cateura in Paraguay, thanks to Favio Chavez. He is a social worker and music teacher who learned how to play guitar and clarinet when he was a child.

Originally, his job was to teach the trash-pickers how to protect themselves, but then he had the idea to open up a music school to try and keep the young children out of trouble.

The school is situated right near the huge landfill sites where around 25,000 families live and work in the huge mountains of rubbish. Life is horrendous and the families are living in extreme poverty. When the school was started, there were only five instruments so the children got bored waiting to get their chance to try playing, but Favio had a great idea.


Nicolas Gomez Instrument Maker

Nicolas Gomez

He asked Nicolas Gomez, (a trash-picker) to try making some musical instruments from recycled materials found on the trash mountains, so that the waiting children would have something to practice on while they were waiting their turn. Nicolas had previously been a carpenter so he had great training for his future work.

Before long, two big jelly cans became a classical guitar and used Xray plates were transformed into a thumping drum set.

Favio also approached Tito Romero, who repaired damaged trumpets in his shop outside Asuncion. He asked him to try and turn supplied, scavenged galvanized pipes and other metals into saxophones, flutes and clarinets. Tito was very successful with his task and was soon supplying instruments for the children.

As for the lucky twenty children in the chamber “Orchestra of Instruments Recycled from Cateura”, they are having a great time. They have performed in Panama, Colombia and Brazil and hope to play at an exhibit opening next year in their honor at the ‘Musical Instrument Museum’ in Phoenix, Arizona.


Recycled Violins Landfill Orchestra

Recycled Violins

Their instruments will be on display next to Eric Clapton’s guitars, as well as one of John Lennon’s pianos. But more importantly, the orchestra has given the children some hope that their lives can be better than their parents’, and maybe escape the poverty and terrible conditions they live in.

Fifteen year old Rocio Riveros took a year to learn to play her flute made from tin cans and is now enjoying being in the orchestra.

Fifteen year old Tania Vera plays a recycled violin and has to live in a wooden shack right next to a contaminated stream; her mother has health problems and her father abandoned his family, but the orchestra gave her the chance to travel and swim in the seas of Ipanema and Copacabana.

Fourteen year old Ada Rios and her cousin, 16 year old Maria Rios, both play recycled violins.


Victor Caceres plays his cello

Victor Caceres plays his cello

Fifteen year old Victor Caceres plays his cello made from a red and white drum.

Fifteen year old Brandon Cobone plays his double bass violin made from a tall yellow barrel.

These and the other children in the orchestra will be playing on the upcoming seasonal holiday at the Asuncion shopping centers and the little money they will earn will go a long way toward providing their families with a Christmas dinner.

The crowds will be treated to a range of music from these inspirational children, including Mozart, Beethoven, Henry Mancini, The Beatles, ‘My Way,’ by Frank Sinatra, and Paraguayan Polkas.

I am sure this scheme will not stop here, but at the moment, at least the music school has provided a way for children to escape the rubbish dumps of Paraguay and find some joy in their young lives.


Jo Tempest.

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