ASUNCION – “Their smile is our reward. It’s not a job for us but a blessing.” That’s how former footballer Julio Gonzalez Ferreira described his work as Inter Campus Paraguay coordinator, as he posed for a picture with one of our kids.
Now in its tenth year, the programme involves 300 boys and girls from Asuncion who live on the rubbish dump in Cateura and in the Zeballos Cue area.
The Inter Campus centre in Zeballos Cue hosts children from the Aldeas Infantiles SOS orphanage and the local area, many of whom are parentless or from extremely poor families.
Reinaldo, Celso, Eduardo and Kevin are the instructors who educate and play football with them. Eduardo and Kevin were part of the Inter Campus project themselves when they were children, then decided to become coaches when they grew up.
The pitch at the Cateura landfill sits alongside mountains of rubbish. The houses – most of them huts – are scattered around and there’s a constant coming and going of dump trucks and carts, which the basureros – the locals who work in the rubbish dump – use to transport items and materials that can be resold.
Here Raimundo, Brian and Fermin coach the children four days a week. Some of the parents gather around the pitch and bring along younger brothers and sisters, who play on makeshift swings put together with bits of rope and tyres.
It’s what you could describe as extreme living conditions but seeing the children playing joyfully and respectfully with their friends and coaches is indeed a blessing.