Food from Garbage Dump Kills Children

In Special Consultative Status with the United Nations
2015 Issue 1 | Newsletter for the Friends of International Samaritan
Food from Garbage Dump Kills Children
Members of the community are torn apart by grief over the deaths of four children.
“Four angels died after trying to satisfy their hunger,” lamented a tearful Marta Lidia Sinay, neighbor
of four children poisoned by ingesting contaminated instant soups.
Trip Impact
Call for Volunteers
Hope in Education
Amid cries of sorrow, the bodies of 7- year-old Jeremiah Catalan and 3- year-olds Jeremy Fernando Hernandez,
Barbara Catalan, and Estephany Vian recently lay lifeless in the Guatemala City garbage dump neighborhood.
Relatives and neighbors could not believe what had happened. “I saw Jeremiah yesterday,” said a young boy from
the neighborhood. “We saw each other in the morning, and I told him that he could play with me later. But he went
...Continued on page 2
to lunch and did not return.”
2015 Issue 1 | 1
Continued from page 1...
Roberto Garza, spokesman for the National Institute of
Forensic Sciences, stated the children were killed by food
that had expired and was spoiled.
Their deaths exposed the plight of the dump community
to those who do not necessarily live near the landfill. It is
not uncommon to see people sort through the garbage
despite the smell. Some seek recyclables to sell; others
seek their first meal of the day.
Regardless of the children’s fate, neighbors continue
to ease their hunger at the dump and are resigned
to eating from the landfill because wages earned
from garbage scavenging are not enough to buy food.
According to residents, the landfill is their only source
of work. “We collect chicken, cheese, cream, beans,
and other things found in the trash because we cannot
afford to go to the market,” said Marta Lidia Sinay.
“When I find candy, cookies, soft drinks, juices, bread,
chicken, pizza, and sweets, I take them to the house and
eat with the family. We are told not eat it, but nothing
has ever happened to us, and there is nothing else to
eat,” said Blanca Solis.
Dr. Carlos Mejia, an infectious disease specialist, explains
that guajeros, or garbage collectors, are exposed to
gastrointestinal infections from contaminated food
in the trash, as well as bacteria or toxins that can be
released from canned goods. They are also exposed
to rats, bugs and parasites that can transmit various
diseases, and children are at greatest risk.
A Work in Progress
To alleviate this grave problem, International Samaritan
serves nutritious meals everyday to the 750 children at
the Francisco Coll School and Santa Clara Nursery. While
they can count on safe food there, parents must still be
educated about the risks of feeding their children food
from the dump to prevent future deaths or illnesses.
“Sadly, none of the children who died participated in our
programs in Guatemala; if so, perhaps their poisoning
could have been avoided,” said International Samaritan’s
International Program Director Andrew Pawuk. “These
deaths highlight the overwhelming need to expand our
programs to help children looking to satisfy their basic
need of finding a healthy meal that will not kill them.”
Like Guatemala, similar food programs are set up in
Nicaragua, Honduras, and Haiti. Help us continue
feeding these innocent children and educating their
families on safer practices by making your donation
today at
Visit for the full version of “Familias
buscan comida entre desechos” (December 7, 2014).
Children and adults search through a wagon containing waste vegetables. Photo credit: Prensa Libre
2 | 2015 Issue 1
Scholarships Bring Hope to Ethiopians
After learning about the death of her husband,
Atalay left her twelve year old son, Dagne, in Addis
Ababa on his own. For three weeks she traveled
the Ethiopian countryside looking for her deceased
When she returned, she found the door to her house
locked and another family living in her apartment.
In disbelief, Atalay looked for her son and learned
that a boy fitting Dagne’s description had been seen
everyday in the garbage dump scavenging for food.
Arriving at the dump, she saw many children, and,
then, a boy walked up to her. “I didn’t even recognize
my own son. His face was covered in dirt, his hair was
a mess, and his clothing was torn and ripped.”
With great joy, she was thankful they were reunited.
However, they had only their former neighbors to
turn to for support and slept underneath an outdoor
stairwell of the same apartment building where they
once had lived.
With no money after expensive funeral costs, Atalay
and Dagne woke up at 4:00 AM each morning and
walked to the nearby Kore garbage dump. Each long
day allowed them to take home discarded food scraps
and less than $1.25, if they were lucky.
“I was praying to the Lord for a better life everyday.
When International Samaritan interviewed me for a
scholarship to go to school and study, I felt like now I
have a better future,” said Dagne.
Selam Terefe, International Samaritan’s Country
Coordinator for Ethiopia, could not believe Dagne’s
condition when she first met him.
“He only had one pair of pants; they were ripped
down the front and were held loosely together with a
paperclip. The neighborhood children would laugh at
his pants because they did not cover him properly.”
The first thing Salem did after meeting Dagne was to
buy him new pants and clothes; then, she enrolled
him in International Samaritan’s scholarship program.
Above: Dagne and his mother, Atalay, have hope for a better future now
that Dagne is recieiving an education through International Samaritan’s
schoarship program. Inset: Atalay holds Dagne’s old, torn pants.
Now, Dagne proudly attends school and is provided
with the materials needed to become successful.
International Samaritan’s scholarship program will
work with families to remove their children from
the garbage dump environment and place them in
classrooms to be educated. To find out how you can
help families in Kore, visit our website,
2015 Issue 1 | 3
Notes from the Field | with Andrew Pawuk
The new year is off to a very fast start. Two volunteer groups from Marian High School in
Bloomfield Hills, MI, volunteered in Nicaragua and Guatemala during their February break.
Spring Hill College in Alabama, a new partner and a Jesuit university, is joining us in building
houses in Nicaragua’s La Joya Garbage dump outside of Granada, Nicaragua.
In addition, students from the University of Michigan’s St. Mary Student Parish in Ann Arbor, MI, the University of
Toledo Honors College in Ohio, and Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, MI, are foregoing a vacation and volunteering
during their spring break to make a difference in the lives of others in Central America.
Ken Coleman, International Samaritan’s research consultant, recently
finished investigating the impact of service on our volunteers (page
5). One graduate student remarked after a service trip, “You get
to see the world–not as a cruise ship traveler–and you get a better
grasp of what we are a part of.” More and more college students
are sacrificing vacations to the beach for being part of a volunteer
movement to create positive change in their lives, and for others,
through service.
Find stories from our volunteers on our Facebook page at, and please, keep all of
our volunteers in you thoughts and prayers.
In Service,
Spring Hill College in Granada, Nicaragua, visits the La Joya
Garbage Dump.
Andrew Pawuk | International Program Director
For more information on volunteer opportunities, contact International Samaritan at [email protected] or call (734) 222-0701.
Interested in volunteering with International Samaritan?
Two trips are open to individuals wanting to volunteer. Join fellow volunteers from around the
United States during a week-long service-learning immersion experience to support the garbage dump
communities of Nicaragua.
Granada, Nicaragua | July 19-26, 2015:
Build a home in Granada and help students in the local school.
Registration deadline: March 26, 2015
Ciudad Sandino, Nicaragua | November 15-20, 2015:
Provide medical, dental, and vision assistance to garbage dump
residents. No medical experience needed, but is preferred.
Registration deadline: July 28, 2015
For more information or to apply, please contact Darren Chase at
[email protected] or (734) 222-0701.
4 | 2015 Issue 1
To Know Me is to Know About My Guatemala Experience
Volunteers like those pictured above report that the experience changes them; reports by Kenneth Coleman (bottom right) quantify the sentiment.
International Samaritan’s Research Consultant, Kenneth Coleman, recently
released “International Samaritan Success Stories”, a report on the effects of
service-learning immersion experiences on our volunteers.
While International Samaritan’s efforts have been shown to improve the lives of those living in garbage dump
communities, Coleman found that the lives of our participants were also changed by their volunteer experience.
Most of the “success stories” involve individuals whose career choices were influenced–indirectly or directly–by an
International Samaritan service-learning immersion experience. Interviewees reported their lasting impressions went
far beyond the poverty they witnessed; rather, their memories focused on the impoverished people they met and
the respect they gained for the poor.
Participants spoke of diminished appreciation for material consumption and of a renewed perspective on the many
resources they enjoy. They described a deepening of their prayer and spiritual life, as well as a desire to engage in
more opportunities to help the poor. They also offered thoughts on the importance of sharing the service-learning
immersion experiences with more people.
When asked about how they would recommend talking to others about International Samaritan experiences,
suggestions were made to the effect that, “if you go, you will receive more than you give and you may well change.”
Perhaps the simplest, most striking testament to the impact came from one person who stated, “To know me is to
know about my Guatemala experience.”
Coleman has taught graduate seminars on the political economy of poverty in Latin America
at the Universities of North Carolina, Kentucky, New Mexico, as well as at Duke. He calls
his work with International Samaritan “applied research in the best sense”. He stated, “As
an indirect result of a survey we did of beneficiaries of International Samaritan activities, a
school was built in Zone 3 in Guatemala City. Graduates have gone on to opportunities for
employment and higher education. What could be better?”
We are sincerely thankful for Coleman’s contribution to our mission, and we look forward to
sharing these “success stories” as we continue to recruit more volunteers. Keep up with us
and our participants on Facebook at to read and
share stories from current volunteers.
2015 Issue 1 | 5
My Heart
Belongs toThose I Serve
Sometimes, it comes as a whisper, and sometimes
as a holler. We may not be prepared to hear it;
however, we must always be open to God’s calling.
I have found the face of Christ in the poor, even
before I joined the Jesuits, and have been called to those existing in the
margins of society: urban prostitutes; disadvantaged, young, intelligent
men; and families scavenging to survive in garbage dumps.
Ecclesiastes reminds us there is a time for everything. Twenty-one years
ago, students from St. John’s Jesuit High School led me to a current
calling that has continued to grow over the years.
Now, International Samaritan is in the midst of an exciting transition.
Oscar Dussan, a longstanding, dedicated member of our team, has been
named President by our Board of Directors. I will continue as Founder
and member of the Board of Directors.
In my transition, I have not stepped into the background; rather,
I continue working daily to further our mission. Know that the
International Samaritan staff and I can accomplish nothing without your
generosity to those in need.
I look forward to working with you to follow our calling to serve the
In the Lord,
Father Don Vettese, S.J.
Is Planned Giving Right for You?
Would you like to see our work continue for years to come? Would you like to
donate but don’t currently have the budget? Would you like your legacy to include
serving the poorest and most marginalized children?
If any of these questions hit home, planned giving is an option to consider.
By adding a provision to your will or trust, a donation is paid after death, and after
beneficiaries are paid. It will cost you nothing during your lifetime. International
Samaritan is offering free professional counsel to anyone interested in planned
giving. We are happy to discuss how our strategic needs fit your interests. Please
call our office at (734) 222-0701 for further information.
6 | 2015 Issue 1
Board of Trustees and Council
Alvaro Andrade | Guatemala City
J. Michael Bernard | Detroit, MI
Mary Lou Fox | La Jolla, CA
Fr. Brian Lehane, S.J. | Detroit, MI
Christopher Lindsey | New York, NY
Geoffrey Lyden, III | Toledo, OH
Rev. Thomas Pipp, S.J. | St. Paul, MN
Karen Pulte | Bloomfield Hills, MI
Joe Rideout, Esq. | Toledo, OH
Scott Savage | Sylvania, OH
Duane Stranahan, Jr. | Naples, FL
Truman Timmis, J.D. | Birmingham, MI
Joan Vatterott | St. Louis, MO
Fr. Don Vettese, S.J.
Oscar Dussán
Andrew Pawuk
International Program Director
Kenneth M. Coleman
Research Consultant
Emeritus Board
Clay Mathile
William Pulte
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
(734) 222-0701 | [email protected]
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