Landfill Symphony: Making Beautiful Music from a Mess

A key message of the PovertyCure initiative is: Don’t smother people’s God-given creativity under a load of well-intended paternalism. We’re always looking for vivid ways to impress on people this creative capacity, since just stating it as an abstract proposition fails to  convey the imaginative energy, tenacity, and sheer verve that can “flame out like shining from shook foil” in the most unlikely of circumstances.

A vivid and beautiful way of conveying it landed in my inbox recently:

A video of slum children creating music with instruments made of trash has been reposted nearly 345,000 times on Facebook in the past week. Some viewers said they wept when they heard the rich, deep notes from a cello made of rusty oil can.

These young musicians hail from a village in Paraguay called Cateura, a town perched on top of a mountain of garbage.…

One day Favio Chávez, an ecological technician, had a wild idea of giving these children something that would have been beyond their reach: playing music in an orchestra. Although he was trained as a musician and had experience in forming ensembles, he knew few if any families could afford musical instruments in Cateura …

That was when Chávez had an epiphany:  “The world sends us garbage, we send back music,” as a quote from Chávez reads in the video’s introduction.

Now pray that the publicity from this story and documentary becomes the means for thoughtful poverty fighters to partner with the families in this village in a way that  unleashes their God-given capacities, rather than just a magnet for a flood of misguided paternalism. The Time magazine story is here. The video of the landfill orchestra is below:

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