The Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay

Living in a nice midwestern town, it’s easy to forget that people live in terrible conditions, and even raise families there. Cateura is the main garbage dump for Paraguay’s capital city. More than twenty thousand people live there earning a living by digging through the garbage looking for recyclable items.

Understandably, the children in this community see their futures as bleak, but then Favio Chávez decided to teach the children music as an alternative. He had a few instruments to share but they were so valuable that it was not safe for the children to be seen with them. A plan was hatched to attempt to make musical instruments from garbage – their value would only be to the child who played them.

Ada, the main character in the story, chooses a violin made from an old paint can, a baking tray, a fork and pieces of wooden crates.

The orchestra started with ten kids and now includes two hundred! The orchestra has traveled the world and even toured with Metallica.

The world sends us garbage. We send back music. –Fabio Chávez

This book is one of the books I’m going to feature in a session I’m teaching for my school district this summer on what’s new in children’s literature. It’s a great story that allows us to learn about diversity, music (which my library desperately needs more of), perseverance and giving back to our communities.

If you’d like to hear the orchestra play, check out their website here or search for them on YouTube. They even played Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters.


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