In the wake of the 1998 Hurricane Mitch, thousands of people were temporarily located to live on the margins of the city of Chinandega, Nicaragua in what is locally known as the ‘circle of death,’ living between the dump, a cemetery and a sewerage plant. More than two decades have passed and the community of ‘El Limonal’ remains at the dump, and intends to stay.
Warren FitzGerald and Kamloops resident Jess Rothenburger met in 2009 when Warren was researching his debut novel The Go-Away Bird in Rwanda, volunteering with a group led by Jess. Since then they have travelled the world together, always looking for a way to get a more authentic experience of what it means to live in a developing nation and to truly consult local people about what they want- if anything- from outside help.
Charitable projects have been set up in an effort to help improve the health care and education of people living there, but when Warren and Jess first volunteered here they realised in order to truly help the community they had to first find out what the people themselves thought they needed.
So they went to live and work with the locals, scavenging for recyclables in the garbage, and it was just the start of a journey of connections, joy, tears and illness that would lead them to question the very meaning of wealth and poverty. Not only would they learn about surviving from a dump, but also about the endurance of the human spirit and the preserving of dignity.
Gringos in the Garbage is the film they made about this experience, 25% of any profit from which goes directly to the community of El Limonal to help their own development.