Interactive blog post # 2
A myriad of scents fills the hot air as we walk through the market place; the humidity traps in the smell of raw meat, maggots, exotic fruits and spices. By the end of the market we are lead into Belen, home of the urban slums. The state of poverty and size is more than you can imagine. Aesthetically, the foundations of the huts are caving alongside rotting floorboards and decrepit stilts exaggerated by this year’s floods. The community is encompassed by dirt roads decorated with garbage and weary street dogs whose starvation is portrayed by visible rib cages. The most appalling of all is their sanitation. There were communal bathrooms outside – essentially a similar structure to an outhouse, but the walls constructed with scrap pieces of plastic held up by waterlogged wood. Their waste goes into a stagnant stream buzzing with flies, the same water they are forced to use for cleaning themselves and their clothing. The aroma of feces and litter are enough to make you feel sick. Despite the broken infrastructure and shocking sanitation is an unprecedented level of joy that radiates in everyone – shone in the faces of the most impoverished people I have ever seen. Herds of smiling children run to us eager to hold our hands and welcome us to their home. It masks their menacing conditions and illumines the sense of community Belen has acquired over the years. These community members embody compassion and infuse and inspire hope for each other. We have quickly come to realize that this floating garden is more than just a solution for lack of agricultural land space. More importantly, it is to build upon the pre-existing strength in the community so they will be able to empower their own solutions, in turn find freedom from poverty and make everlasting change.
Words by Desiree Wallace