Orchestra of Recycled Instruments from Cateura
Favio’s mission is to transform the lives of the children of Cateura through music and motivate public action to address global issues of extreme poverty.
While working as an ecological technician at the Cateura Landfill, the largest garbage dump of Paraguay’s capital Asunción, Favio Chávez got to know and befriended some of the 2,500 impoverished families who lived at the garbage dump working as recyclers. Witnessing the rampant illiteracy, extreme poverty, pollution and surrounding culture of drugs and gangs, Chávez became acutely aware that the children needed something positive in their lives – something to keep them out of the landfill and striving for something more.
Favio, having previously been a music teacher, decided to share his love of music with the children, and he began teaching music lessons using the handful of personal instruments he owned. He quickly realized there weren’t enough instruments for all the eager students wanting to learn. With help from one of the trash pickers, he started experimenting with making instruments with the given resources. Using scraps of dirty oilcans, jars, wood, forks and other junk in the Cateura landfill, the instruments began to take shape and become finely tuned musical instruments - violins, flutes, cellos, drums…all made from trash. From this ingenuity, the “Recycled Orchestra” was formed with the local children as its members learning and performing Bach, Mozart and Beethoven.
By taking the world’s trash and giving back music, Favio aims to not only raise public awareness of a global issue but also demonstrate that despite extreme poverty, students can become contributing members of the community. The orchestra has breathed new life into the community and is providing the children with new opportunities for a future they never imagined possible.
Favio and his students were recently featured on 60 Minutes on CBS. To view the broadcast, please click here.
So far, Chavez has taught music skills to over 120 children, inspiring hope, confidence and an awakening of passions within the children and their families who are now beginning to believe in a future beyond the slums of the landfill. The youth orchestra, now 30 members strong, has performed throughout the world and is the subject of the upcoming documentary Landfill Harmonic. There are 50 youth currently participating in the music education program who aspire to soon join the orchestra.