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A perfect match

Sometimes I look in my closet and see two items hanging next to each other and think, “A perfect match! Never would have thought of it!”

Sunday night CBS aired two segments on 60 Minutes adjacent to each other: The Giving Pledge and  The Recyclers: From Trash Comes Triumph. They seem a perfect match.

The Giving Pledge is a new club inspired by Northwest neighbors Bill and Melinda Gates in association with Warren Buffett. Membership? Be worth at least a billion dollars and be willing to give at least half of it away, either during one’s lifetime or through a will at the time of death. The wealthy entrepreneurs have specific causes they support: eradicate polio around the world through immunization, end global warming, educate girls – no specific destination for the billionaires’ money, just a shared goal: to improve life on the planet.  

And then those musicians: children living in Cateura, Paraguay within a garbage dump, their families -2500 of them - known as the garbage pickers. No electricity or running water, many children leave for life with gangs. The garbage dump “employs” hundreds of farmers who were kicked off the large farms where they once worked. They pick through garbage to find items like plastic and cardboard to recycle.

The idea of a music school came from an environmental technician and musician, Favio Chávez, when a garbage picker named Nicolás Gómez found a piece of trash resembling a violin and brought it to Chávez. Using other objects collected from the dump, the pair constructed a functional violin and gave birth to hope through music. An orchestra was born. A discarded roasting pan is hammered into the body of a violin, the spike of a woman’s shoe cranks the string into perfect pitch. And a grandmother, with dreams of singing and performing herself, sees her dreams realized through her grandchildren.

Slowly, the world is learning of Cateura: a documentary film titled “The Landfill Harmonic” has been completed. 

“People realize that we shouldn’t throw away trash carelessly. Well, we shouldn’t throw away people either,” says one Cateura musician.

What if those billionaires collaborated with Cateura and planners and other brainiacs and built a real recycling center, training and employing the people to operate the center, bringing electricity and clean water and decent housing? And what if the recycled instruments were manufactured on-site, perhaps sold to others, and the billionaires built a music school where those musicians could play out of the rain?

What if the billionaires and the garbage pickers would hang together for a while? What would happen? From here, it looks like a perfect match.

(Graphic:S-R archives)

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Writer Catherine Johnston of Olympia, Wash., addresses issues facing aging baby boomers and seniors as well as issues of serious illness, death and dying, grief and loss.

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