Gringos make good

Two years ago Jess Rothenburger and Warren FitzGerald went to live and work with a community of Nicaraguans who reside in a garbage dump, which is next to a sewage plant and across from a cemetery.

The two men would survive just like everyone else in El Limonal, by scavenging from the garbage dump. Locals dig through mountains of burning rubbish in search of glass, plastic, metal and paper to sell -- which earns them less than dollar a day.

Rothenburger and FitzGerald documented their experience in an attempt to help the community, by knowing first hand what the people in El Limonal need.

The result is a film, entitled Gringos in the Garbage, created to raise money and awareness for those living in El Limonal.

Rothenburger, who now resides in Kamloops, is hoping to make good on his promise to the people in the community. He is returning to Nicaragua alongside two non-profit workers with funds raised to help those in need in the community.

Teresa Cline of Global Solidarity Group says the Nicaraguan government recently decided to start a new housing program where, for US$300, they will build a $7000 home on land.

“We have sponsored over 25 families, several of them have already had houses built,” she says. “We don’t do any of the building, that is the government, what we do is we match the families with sponsors.”

The housing situation in El Limonal is bleak. For the last two decades the community has been living at the dump with no option to move elsewhere.

Following Hurricane Mitch in 1998, thousands of people were supposed to be temporarily located on the margins of the city of Chinandega, in what is locally known as the ‘circle of death' or now, home.

“There are a lot of single mothers who live there with five kids, so we need to find out who needs the homes the most and then we help them buy a ticket from the government. Then the government will send workers down to build the homes,” Cline says.

Through Global Solidarity Group, money is being raised to help families. It costs $500 in Canadian funds to build a home through the non-profit and leftover funds will go to the El Limonal community fund for emergency supplies.

Cline and Rothenburger leave for Nicaragua on March 5. The two will conduct a census in El Limonal to find those most in need of a home.

They'll arrive with the funds they've raised and money from students in School District 73 who have been collecting donations to purchase food hampers.

“The price of food has gone up, and these people who make a buck a day barely have enough to eat, they are starving. It costs $10 to feed a family of five for a week,” Cline says, adding the students have raised almost $3000 so far.

Production on the film Gringos in the Garbage wrapped up last year and Rothenburger set up a premier viewing for the El Limonal community in November.

The official Canadian premier takes place in Kamloops at the TRU Clock Tower on Wed. March. 23 at 7 p.m.

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