Every school day I pass a dumping ground of trash and often see cows and dogs eating and people sifting through the trash – rag picking – to make their day’s wages off of recycling items. Recently I’ve noticed a dozen or so people around the area sifting through and making an actual “dent” in the items that have piled up. In that mix of rag pickers are children. Ragpickers are listed by wikipedia under “obsolete occupations” but living in India I can tell you it is far from obsolete. From the Acorn Foundation, India:
These thousands of children women and youth earn a living by selling the dry waste to scrap dealers, and most of the rag-pickers make barely 75-100 rupees a day (under $2)
I’ve posted that we have an excess of items and one that we had for sure is shoes. A few my kids have outgrown that I’ve attempted to leave out for the daily pick up (in most buildings someone comes door to door to pick up trash daily) but since they aren’t in “bad” condition I can’t get them to take them and I don’t want them to just go in the real trash and risk not getting picked through and instead end up in an over crowded landfill. There doesn’t appear to be a “St Vincent dePaul (aka St Vinnies) or Salvation Army or Goodwill to just do a drop off ,so I figured we can show some charity and give these shoes a second life with some shoe-less kids.
As for my kiddos – let them know when I picked them up that I brought their too small shoes and wanted to see if we could give them to some kids. I was surprised but both said yes almost immediately.
They were quite happy and the older kids also were excited. I didn’t take a picture of the first shoes we gave out – but the second girl was so excited (and her friend here was even more excited). They were grateful- they didn’t ask for more as a beggar would or someone selling something on the side of the street.
Lessons in real life – Rag pickers
As we waited our rickshaw (this is around a minute walk from their school) a toddler of around 18 months old then asked his mom (or caregiver) for her shoes. She gave her chappals (sandals) and let him walk.
As we went home my daughter asked me “If they don’t have a house or any money for shoes, how did they born?” I didn’t understand her fully and she asked “like how did they pay the doctor or hospital?” I don’t know. Home birth? Lay midwives? Transfer only as necessary?
In the end it is sometimes easier to just drive past rag pickers – but they are people too. They allow “us” to not sort our trash.
They are the real recyclers out there and it affects the economy and it is their livelihood. As more trash segregation and mechanized recycling occurs it is more important that there are real education opportunities for these kids as well.
Check out this article on the Dharavi Project that helps to bring up the livelihood and life of rag pickers.