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The Families at the Dump mission was formed with the objective: "to provide physical, educational, medical, spiritual and emotional support to the families living in the landfill or garbage dump in Puerto Vallarta or surrounding areas."

In 2006, the mission discovered that whole families were living and working in the city dump overlooking the resort of Puerto Vallarta, in Mexico.  They knew of no other way of life as some families had been living there for many generations.  Their children were not registered and were not able to obtain birth certificates as they had no official address, so the children could not go to school.  Their futures were bleak.

The mission project started by bringing water, food and clothing. The mission named the road at the base of the dump "Hope Road", assigned each home an address and got the children registered so they could go to school.  Today, all of our "Families of Hope" no longer live in the dump itself!

Thanks to the generous sponsorship and donations from our supporters, the children attend daycare, preschool and public school, learn computers and English and through our homework assistance program our first two high school graduates have entered university.  Regular medical treatment is provided. Soccer teams were organized and participation is enthusiastic.

While many adults have continued to work in the city garbage dump as registered self-employed "recyclers", microloans to start up businesses are being made available to those wanting to expand their horizons. Several of the women have started up their own businesses and are doing well.

About Families at the Dump

In 2006, a mission statement was developed together with the developer of Paradise Village Resort, and with input from many visitors and tourists in Puerto Vallarta.

In the mission statement, it stated: "to provide physical, educational, medical, spiritual and emotional support to the families living in the landfill or garbage dump in Puerto Vallarta or surrounding areas."

At the start of this mission, water and food were delivered weekly to the families that work in the garbage dump.  Breakfast was given to the children that live at the base of the dump as well.

As the mission started to develop relationships with the families, it became apparent that the families wanted their children educated so they no longer have to be dependent on working at the dump throughout their lives.

The mission moved forward in 2007 to meet with these families to collect data on the number of families that are within the mission and to identify the number of children not attending school.

The mission met with the directors in the public school system to find ways of getting the children into the school system, and the directors agreed to work with the mission to ensure that every child had an opportunity to receive education.

The mission named the road at the base of the dump "Hope Road" and numbered each shanty to create an address for each of the children so they could register for their birth certificates.

The mission then introduced the school sponsorship program. In August of 2007, thirty children were sponsored into the public school system and started school, many for the first time.

In 2008 the mission moved forward to provide nutritious breakfasts for 90-100 children every morning along Hope Road. Also, at the community center, a lunch program was introduced to provide nutritious lunches for the children attending school.

The mission delivered 175-200 Dispensa bags that consist of much needed food items every Friday. This Food Bag consists of beans, rice, potatoes, tuna, and a variety of other items which were changed regularly for variety. The mission also delivered sandwiches, fruit and water to all recyclers and their families on Wednesday mornings.  The mission also distributed bottled water to all recyclers 5 days a week.

The mission project distributed donated clothing, shoes, and school supplies to the registered recyclers’ families and families from the surrounding communities.

The mission established a Daycare Center which provided a safe place for the mothers to leave their children when they went to go work in the recycling center. The Daycare Center provided training to the mothers in caring for their children and to develop their work skills.  Volunteers willingly contributed to supervise the children and train the mothers.

The mission works directly with 225 registered recyclers and their families who live at the base of the city dump and in the village of Majesterio. The mission developed strong personal relationships with the registered recyclers and their families as well as with the committee governing the registered recyclers. This committee was also instrumental in helping the mission provide programs and services. Their input was essential so that we respected the traditional and cultural differences of their people.These relationships provided the mission with an intimate and unique insight to assist the families and recyclers at the city dump. Home visits and family assessments were an integral part of this program.

In 2009 the governing committee for the registered recyclers has been the driving force in making changes with the Committee of Registered RecyclersMexican government to create a better and safer working environment for all the recyclers and their families. This committee has been instrumental in removing the children under the age of 14 from working at the city dump. Only children 14yrs and older attending school can work in the dump. The mission continues to work and advocate with this governing committee to create a better living environment for all the registered recyclers and their families.

In 2009 a new government was elected and came into power in July in the city of Puerto Vallarta and the mission continued to work with this new government to advocate for the families to create a safe working environment and also for them to get better pay for the recycleable materials that they collect at the city dump.

The mission also established a communications system with the regional hospital together with the community health programming to arrange for vaccinations for all children and also tetanus shots for all the recyclers. This working relationship with the local health program has been very beneficial for the families as we have seen by the changes in the children's health.

Also in 2009, the Preschool program was introduced to prepare the three-year olds for attending kindergarten.  The English and Computer classes for the children and adults were established.

In 2009 the mission established a theme called "Education Heroes" to push forward the importance of education for children and adults.  250 children found sponsors and enrolled in the public school system.  Many of these children moved on from primary to secondary school levels.  Some of these students have now completed secondary school and moved into university now.

The medical program was introduced with local doctors that visited the community center on a weekly basis.  The physicians were alternating between a pediatrician and a general practicioner for the adults.  Visiting optometrists also come and do eye tests. The mission has a working relationship with the medical clinic to do all the laboratory work for medical and diagnostic testing. The mission can directly refer people that need x-rays or other emergency medical care.

The mission also introduced evening programs.  Three evenings a week, the center was opened and activities were provided for the children.  This included the formation of soccer teams and tournaments were organized for them at the beach of Paradise Village Resort.  Music and Dancing lessons were also organized to teach them their local cultural tradition music and dances.

In 2010 the mission is moving in a different direction, as many of the families are becoming semi self-sufficient.  A lot more emphasis will be placed on education for both children and adults.  To assist the adults in finding alternative work, some adults have already been enrolled in job training programs. Through the micro-loans program, many of the families are starting to generate income by means of home-based businesses.

The establishment of a Food Bank has also changed how the mission provides assistance to the families as the recyclers or their families can come to the centre of their own free will and on their own schedule to pick up food as necessary.

We have introduced a co-op store where the mission buys articles to resell to the families at cost to teach them to manage their own money.  Our Food Bank dispenses basic nutritious necessities for sustenance, whereas most of the articles in the store are non-essentials, such as cleaning supplies, personal hygiene items, sweet treats which encourages them to make their own money in order to afford these extras.

The mission has also introduced incentives for the children and parents that excellent attendance and performance in the public school system.  A scholarship fund has been established for secondary school and university students.

This allows the mission to move the families towards total self-sufficiency and independence in the future and also to prepare them to move into the new housing development that is currently in the final planning stages.  The families are now living at the base of the dump along Hope Road, no longer in the dump itself, but we still have more work to do so that they have clean, modern, sanitary homes to live in.

Volunteering With Families at the Dump

The Documentary TV Series Travel Secrets Mexico offers quality advice and objective information for tourists and people who want to retire in Mexico recently interviewed Winnie Giesbrecht, the founder and mission director.

We consist of a core group of dedicated volunteers, assisting the families dependent on the Puerto Vallarta City Dump. We are not receiving compensation of any kind. Some costs are incurred for translation and education. Although administration costs continue to rise, we will strive to maintain an acceptable percentage in this area.

If you would like to visit the site, please contact us.

While visiting, you can assist with the breakfast program for the children living at the base of the PV city dump and assist in distributing bottled water to the recyclers while they are working. You can visit our center and see and hear about our programs for the next season!

Space is limited to 10 visitors in the van, please contact us to make sure you can come out to visit.

We are currently assessing and developing our programs for the upcoming seasons. If you are interested in helping, please contact us.

If you are planning to be in Vallarta for an extended length of time and would like to volunteer, please contact us.

We can meet with you, discuss your interests, the opportunities we may have and find a fit for you. Personality, talents, interests, motivation and availability will all be taken into consideration. Spanish is an asset, however not a necessity. Transportation is available by local bus to the mission site.

How You Can Help Families at the Dump

Our mission is funded solely by the generous donations of individuals and businesses. Without your support the mission would be unable to fund these programs. Without our help, the children and young adults would never have the opportunity to pursue their education and their dreams.

Please consider donating today.  You can designate your donation amount to a specific program, for a scholarship, school sponsorsip, or the mission will designate donated funds to where the greatest need is currently.

Please visit our website to make a donation.

Wish List:

To assist one child with school supplies you could bring a backpack with...
• 6 lined notebooks
• package of pencils
• package of blue/red/black pens
• ruler
• erasers
• scissors
• sharpener
• pencil case
• geometry set
• calculator
• Spanish dictionary
• pencil crayons
• whiteout
• colored markers
• construction paper.
• white polo shirt (kid's size small, medium or large)
• tennis shoes, size 12, 13, 1, 2, or 3 (boys or girls)

To assist recyclers working in the dump you could bring...
• bandanas
• baseball caps
• adult runners
• headlamps (found in Canada in Dollarama)

To assist the activity room you could bring...
• beads
• craft supplies
• white glue
• paints
• playdough
• coloring books
• tissue paper

To assist the food service room you could bring...
• plastic cups
• plates
• bowls
• forks
• spoons

To assist the daycare room you could bring...
• age appropriate toys (1 yr – 5 yrs)
• diapers
• baby bottles
• bottle brushes
• diaper rash cream
• baby oil
• q-tips
• baby shampoo
• baby food
• powdered milk (Nido, NAN 1, NAN 2,)

To assist the computer/english programs you could bring...
• lined notebooks
• pencils
• pens
• learning games for the computer
• computers
• small items to use for incentives/motivation/reward

Last updated: August 26, 2023 · Charity ID: 516

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