The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay
Reviewed May 5, 2016.
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, New York, 2016. 40 pages.
This picture book tells the story of Ada Rios, who grew up living in the main garbage dump of Asuncion, the capital city of Paraguay. Her family worked in the landfill as a recycler, finding trash they could sell.
One day Favio Chavez came to town, offering music lessons for the children of the town, Cateura. There weren't enough musical instruments to go around -- so they made instruments out of recycled materials they found in the landfill.
They formed an orchestra, and Ada practiced hard. They performed concerts and ended up being able to travel around the world, even performing at a Metallica concert.
The picture book tells the story simply enough for children. Material at the back fills in the details for adults, complete with YouTube links.
Music and creativity combined with time and dedication brought music and new life to the children of Cateura.
The last paragraphs of the Author's Note at the back is filled with hope:
Money from the orchestra's concerts goes back to Cateura to help families rebuild their homes, their music school, and their lives. "Not too long ago we purchased a piece of land where we will build houses for fifteen orchestra families," said Chavez. "Ada has a new house there." This land is out of the flood zone. These families will never again have to face the evacuations that displace Cateura villagers every year when the river rises.
What started as a music class for ten kids has swelled to orchestral rehearsals for two hundred students, with more than twenty-five instructors. Chavez quit his ecology job to work with the orchestra full-time. Now plans are afoot to use the Recycled Orchestra's experiences as a model to help other children living on landfills around the world.