While working as an ecological technician at the Cateura Landfill, the largest garbage dump of Paraguay’s capital Asunción, Favio Chávez got to know and befriended some of the 2,500 impoverished families who lived at the garbage dump working as recyclers. Witnessing the rampant illiteracy, extreme poverty, pollution and surrounding culture of drugs and gangs, Chávez became acutely aware that the children needed something positive in their lives – something to keep them out of the landfill and striving for something more.
Having previously been a music teacher, Favio decided to share his love of music with the children, and began teaching music lessons using the handful of personal instruments he owned. He soon realised there wasn’t enough instruments for all the eager students, so he started experimenting with making instruments using scraps of dirty oilcans, jars, wood, forks and other junk in the Cateura landfill, the instruments began to take shape and become finely tuned musical instruments - violins, flutes, cellos, drums…all made from trash. From this ingenuity, the “Recycled Orchestra” was formed with the local children as its members learning and performing Bach, Mozart and Beethoven.
So far, Chavez has taught music skills to over 120 children, inspiring hope, confidence and an awakening of passions within the children and their families who are now beginning to believe in a future beyond the slums of the landfill. The youth orchestra, now 30 members strong, has performed throughout the world and is the subject of the upcoming documentary Landfill Harmonic - to be shown at Zurich Film Festival on Sunday (27th Sep)