Madagascar: hope after the dump

TOJO HAS JUST RETURNED FROM PARIS WHERE SHE HAS SPENT TWO YEARS IMPROVING HER KNOWLEDGE OF FRENCH THANKS TO A SCHOLARSHIP. Despite a job offer to remain in Paris, she has chosen to return to her country, Madagascar, to be close to her people. When she was nine years old, life seemed to have condemned her to an irreversable path.

She had seen five brothers and sisters die with her own eyes, her parents had no jobs, no money, no house. Along with her eldest sister, she survived malnutrition and disease. In these conditions, Tojo and her family were found living in the enormous landfill of Antananarivo, the capital. They rummaged among garbage to find something to eat and slept in huts made of hemp propped between mountains of waste. It is there that Father Pedro saw them for the first time in 1991, blackened from dirt, wearing clothes made of rags, marked by the absent look and sunken faces of hunger.

The rubbish dump of Antananarivo is Hell with its stench from mountains of garbage and plastic bags, rusted steel and animal carcasses. Today many families still live there and it is from there that we decided to begin our journey into an extraordinary world – a world difficult to imagine after discovering Madagascar under the airy gaze of a tourist. We met children who played in the garbage, mothers who nursed, old and young blackend by smoke and dirt, all trying to find plastic bottles or pieces of metal to sell by weight. When a truck loaded with trash arrived, people literally threw themselves into it, hoping to find new a treasure. One could not imagine anything further from such a world.

It is here that, twenty years ago, Father Pedro Opeka’s adventure began.

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