Jardim Gramacho is a wasteland ‘a true ecological wound’. It was an epic open air landfill, the largest in South America. Roughly 3,000 catadores, self-designated pickers of recyclable materials, worked and with their families lived amongst it; creating a community of somewhat a precarious existence. It was shut in 2012, after 34 years in operation, leaving thousands jobless. Rather than the state providing substantial support and rehabilitation the community were left to fend for themselves, socially excluded and forgotten. It is now an illegal rubbish tip with people, children still living amongst it, left to rot. . . . . . The land is waste, there is no fresh water supply, the air is plastic filled from the ever burning of the rubbish, everything is carcinogenic. The people are forced to live off donations as the government are doing nothing.
Despite being thirty minutes away from Copacabana, central in Rio, the vast majority of cariocas have no idea of this existence and its dire state. We learnt about it through the organisation TETO and spent time in Jardim Gramacho under their project.
TETO’s vision is to have “a just society without poverty, where all people have opportunities to develop their skills and can fully exercise their rights”. Their mission is to work in poor communities to overcome extreme poverty through training and joint action with its residents and TETO’s volunteers. Hoping to promote community development from grassroots positions providing resources, education and support with communities/people to challenge and address their issues.
gab began its journey into JG by attending a meeting with TETO and the communities most ‘active’ members …… here they were able to put forward what their most prominent issues are and how/if TETO can support in challenging/changing them.
It was here where the community members expressed the processes that they have been involved in with other NGO’s and how / why the relationships didn’t work. Furthermore through this discussion we learnt the shocking situation that they have no access to a fresh water supply, a commodity we take for granted but unfortunately this is not unusual for a ‘slum’ type situation. However what makes this dire is that the private water companies are charging and expecting payment from these people for water even though they are not providing it. Their debts therefore continuing to increase while the majority are jobless due to the government ‘officially’ closing the landfill, leaving thosands jobless and then not appropriately supporting and rehabilitating the workers into sustainable full time employment. They were asking TETO to help them stop this horrific process.
We then travelled further in the slum itself, to visit the rest of the community members, families and children.
For a larger cooperation TETO, from what we witnessed, do hold true to their objectives and have close relationships with the people they set out to help. Dialogue surrounds their work and they have a strong presence in the slum/participants environment. With weekly visits they spend regular consistent time with the residents of JG, building and maintaing relationships with as many people as possible, not just with those who attend the structured meetings. It through this set up they have access to a larger sense of what a wider range of people think/feel and actually are in need of and learn how they can support them.