The murder of Shannon Banfield in December, 2016 created somewhat of a nationwide panic and generated much talk about the safety of women in T&T.
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Residents ‘eat ah food’ from Guanapo dump
Hopping on to garbage trucks, scavengers hitch a ride to Guanapo dump. They make their way past La Retreat to their own version of King Solomon’s mines. Motorists and commuters have complained they pose a nuisance since they bob and weave between the cars. Yet, they breathe a collective sigh of relief that the Guanapo dump rummagers have not resorted to criminal assaults against commuters and motorists. They are more concerned with digging out whatever “treasures” there are to be found in Guanapo’s proverbial gold mine and converting same to economic gain. Swearing by the benefits derived from the dump business is Heights of Guanapo resident Walter Pamponette.
Flashing a smile that lit up his moon-shaped face, Pamponette said: “I eat ah food from the dump.” Having acquired sufficient funds, he gravitated toward the transport business. “I bought a van for $125,000. I doing more transporting. Pamponette, a veteran dump forager, claimed bragging rights for amassing more than $400,000 in more than 23 years. “I got a better salary working in the dump than working in factories and supermarkets.” Reviewing the possibilities of engaging in lucrative business, Pamponette said: “On a normal day, a hustler could make between $500 and $1,000. The metal could fetch about $4 a pound, iron 60 cents a pound and a bag of bottles about $12. Among the job specifications are rummaging, salvaging and sorting the prized pieces of discards.
On a lighter note, Pamponette even saves his transport money. “I live opposite the dump. I just walk to work. No sweat.” Random checks with other “dumpsters” revealed they were equally satisfied with the prospects of earning a living from the dump. One young man said: “Why would I want to work for less than $300. I will make enough capital to move on to something better from the dump.” Fast money, drugs
On the flip side, Pamponette expressed the view “if the dump moved out, all the drugs would move out.” Rumours abound that it may be relocated to Cumuto. “All the drugs men...ganja and cocaine coming right here. They and the pipers making fast money. After that move, everything will cool down.”
Asked whether the young people were not drawn to planting the vast expanse of agricultural land, Pamponette said: “Hell...no. They prefer the dump. Is fast money. They don’t have to do hard work. Yet, he was careful not to burn his bridges. “They getting cars, big truck, house and brands from the dump. No ifs or maybes. The dump is profitable.” Although they might experiment with narcotics, Pamponette said: “Dem boys an dem does jump truck in the junction. It is a bit of a nuisance. But they don’t rob nobody. They making an honest living from the dump.”
On the way to the Guanapo dump, trucks drive past homes with galvanise fences. The extremely humble shacks are carved out of boxboard. Green is a popular colour. Patches of yellow buttercups add a dash of colour to the greenery. Rough skinned lemon trees bloom profusely. Common fowls like the red-crested, silver gray Dorking and Black Silkies peck at the earth. Pieces of corrugated iron as though “carved in dreams” according to Charles Dickens lie bare and wasted. Soca and conscious music blast loudly. A stone’s throw away, is a tuck shop. As they tumble from the trucks, they get to work ripping open plastic bags. As far as the eye can see, a small crowd of scavengers working 24/7 dot the top of the mountain. In a deep crouch, others search for key finds like iron, copper and aluminium.
They rummage through the garbage in search of bottles and paper. They get a lot of good goods from the factories. Items can range from a bunch of pins, to refrigerators and massive pieces of junk. It’s a ballet of sorts for them, wading through rubbish that can reach ten feet high. Circling corbeaux have become almost domesticated. The sight of another big truck approaching is like Nirvana. They get to work, extracting from our leavings anything of value. They have created a thriving business out of salvaging items. Out of the rubbish they sift anything that might be returned to the engines of manufacturing. Tractors push and compact the freshly dropped garbage.
To those unfamiliar with the Guanapo community, the conditions may look sub-human. But it is a veritable goldmine for the community that has built a livelihood out of what T&T leaves behind and developed a spirit of camaraderie. Random checks with some of them reveal they would be “brokes” without the treasures from the dump. They are keenly aware it’s not an activity most people would engage in as a livelihood. More importantly, they are at one in the belief they are engaging in honest labour.
• Next week: Residents say Guanapo dump is becoming a nuisance, a health hazard and calls for Government to step in.