Landfill Harmonic


“The world sends us garbage. We send back music.” Favio Chavez

The story develops in one of the poorest slums in Latin America. Just outside Asuncion, Paraguayans capital; Cateura is the city’s trash dump. It is built on a landfill. Here, people live in a sea of garbage. And they live from garbage. Every day, tons of rotting detritus spill from trucks and people swarm over it to pick the pieces of trash that are their livelihood.

A few years ago, one of the garbage pickers, “Cola”, an untutored genius of the slum, got together with local musician Favio Chávez to make instruments for the children of the slum. There was no money for real instruments so together they started to make instruments from trash – violins and cellos from oil drums, flutes from water pipes and spoons, guitars from packing crates.

With children like Ada and Tania and with the support of many in the slum, Favio slowly put together one of the world’s most unlikely orchestras. It is entirely made of garbage. They call it “The Recycled Orchestra”.

This is an inspiring video about how a community make use of garbage to create instruments in order to make music. Through this video, I discovered three important lessons:

1. Be creative
Never in my mind would I imagined that it is possible to use garbage to make instruments and to create such melodious music and tunes. This shows me that as long as you’re creative, you can create solutions and effect change. Open your mind and start thinking of innovative ways to do good.

2. Be compassionate
It took a man, Favio Chávez, to bring music to this community. He was successful as a musician but was able to exercise compassion in order to help others. It is vital for us that as we become successful, that we should never forget or neglect the needy and those around us.

3. Be using your gifts
Favio made use of his talents and abilities effectively for change. It made me wonder about our overseas community service efforts that students in Singapore usually participate in. We often go overseas to help paint or construct buildings, which I think is kind of hilarious because we have a situation in which city-kids are going over to do something that they are not good at. Often times, the locals have to redo and rebuild the facility after it is ‘completed’.

Don’t get me wrong, I still see value in city-kids going overseas to build wells or building because in most cases, they come back with a greater realisation of life and self as well as a greater sense of gratitude. However, what I’m saying is that for there to be greater benefit and lasting change in the community that we want to help, it may be better to use your skills and talents effectively to serve the community, making up for what they lack.



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