By Jack Zimmerman,
JVMI’s Staff Evangelist
He sat motionless in one of the most abysmal places I have ever seen – a garbage dump brimming with threadbare rubber car tires, rotting corpses of dead animals, and human waste.
He was a baby boy – perhaps only 18 months old.
I asked to visit the landfill, after learning that the poverty and hopelessness I saw from those who came to our medical clinic paled in comparison to those who call the landfill home.
It is a garbage dump – sandwiched on one side between a marketplace where people with even a little money can purchase beautiful fabrics, tapestries, and crafts – while the other side boasts a regal backdrop of majestic mountains and picturesque valleys.
The squalid dump is nearly concealed by white smoke… and indication that someone nearby is roasting coffee beans.
This is not where you’d expect to find a landfill, much less a baby boy playing in the filth that surrounds him. But there are many babies like him there. They wear little if any clothing, and the rags they wear have been ripped or torn by the elements and reek of the stench that surrounds them.
The hopelessness in their huge, dark eyes is punctuated only by the flies crawling around those eyes. They no longer bother to shoo them away. They gave that up long ago. So the flies simply stay ad spread disease on the faces of the young and old alike.
I wanted to take this child home with me.
I didn’t know who he was or what diseases he most certainly had, but something deep within my soul refused to accept the fact that a place where fully dressed adults, who obviously wash and disinfect themselves after walking through the dump for five minutes, is a place where this child, who wears next to nothing, lives every single day and night.
There is shelter from the elements, but it is meager at best. The “houses” are about five feet tall and maybe two to three feet wide, with small openings at the front. One must fall to the knees and crawl through to get inside. Once there you see a few old and stained towels spread on the dirt floor. This is where they sleep.
For us, it is simply what we use to carry our groceries to the car.
For them, it’s home.
Gondar, Ethiopia Medical Outreach 2009
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