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This appeared several years ago on the Web site of Casa Alianza, a non-profit organization dedicated to the benefit of street children in Central America.<br><br><br><br><div style="text-align:center;"><b>On the Eve of the Global March Against Child Labour, Two Working Children Finally Find Peace in Guatemala.</b></div>
<br><br><br><br><div style="text-align:center;">By Bruce Harris<br><br></div>
Nothing was new about the burning stench of the rotting rubbish when the scores of little children set out before sunrise to work in the rubbish dump in Zone 3 of Guatemala City last November 14th.<br><br><br><br>
The children dreamt the seemingly unreachable illusion of going to school, rather than working the habitual 14 hours a day in the bowels of squelching excrement of a society where more than 80% of the population lives in poverty.<br><br><br><br>
But not all is bad. The children do not have to travel far to go to work because they live in the rubbish dump. There are no transportation costs. Just skin infections, hair lice, and malnutrition.<br><br><br><br>
Twelve year old Patricio Zoc Osorio and his little brother Mariano Rojas Osorio (11) were looking for plastic that chilly morning. They also found breakfastsome maggot ridden pizza that some overweight, over-indulged customer didnt want last week. Patricio and Mariano picked out the live sources of protein with their mucky fingers and devoured the putrid pizza. When you are desperate, you dont worry about taste or whether the pizza was delivered within the last 30 minutes.<br><br><br><br>
If they were lucky, these two little boyswhose family had fled the areas of conflict in the recent bloody civil war in Guatemalawould find enough old plastic bottles and bags to be able to sell at the end of the arduous day for about 3 quetzalesabout 50 cents of a US dollar. A Big Mac at McDonalds in Guatemala City costs 20 quetzaleswithout the fries.<br><br><br><br>
Some 300 people live on, in, and off the rubbish in Guatemala City. Those who have lived there longest get first pickings at the rubbish trucks that come in from the exclusive Zone 10. The new arrivals only get the throwaways from the squatters areas of the city. Both groups are exploited by the nicely clothed intermediaries who pathetically pay pennies for hours of arduous search for cloth, plastic and glass.<br><br><br><br>
For little Patricio, his main competition of the day were the ubiquitous vultures who swarm like a menacing black cloud over societys entrails. The malnourished indigenous boy always carried a stick, and always was on the look out for little Mariano. You see, Patricio loved his little brother...<br><br><br><br>
It may have been carelessness. Some would say an act of God. Others an act of mercy.<br><br><br><br>
As the warmth of the suns rays hit the backs of Patricio´s and Mariano´s tattered t-shirts, literally tons of reeking rubbish tumbled down on top of them. An avalanche of stink, devouring two little lights of hope. Snuffing them out in seconds. Nobody heard their screams.<br><br><br><br>
The first on the scene were the vultures, followed by about 20 children who saw the scared faces of their friends as the blanket of junk enveloped the little boys. With bare hands they desperately scratched and dug, defying all reason and thinking, prayingbeggingthat their friends still be alive. They implored a municipal worker to bring a tractor over to start digging, but after 20 minutes of fruitless search, the tractor had to go back to work.<br><br><br><br>
Throw away children. Thrown away in a world of exploitation, their childhood ridiculed and stolen from them. Society is left with a lot of small adults who have had to mortgage their future to survive today. There are no ifs or buts; this is wrong. Unjust in every sense of the word.<br><br><br><br>
When the Global March Against Child Labour arrives in Guatemala City on April 29th, we will go to the spot where Patricio and Mariano lay amongst the rubbishtheir bodies were never foundand we will try and share with them the dream that no child should have to work. That no child should have to suffer like they suffered. From exploitation to education. We will gather strength from their tragedy and shower them with our tears. They will become our martyrs. And we will pray for them to give us strength in what, at times, seems like an impossible feat. And they will help, wherever their spirits may be. And, like the phoenix, the working children will rise again from the ashes.
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