FAMILIES AT THE DUMP Celebrates 5 Years in Puerto Vallarta

by Brenda Power

March 21, 2011 marks the 5th year anniversary of FAMILIES AT THE DUMP.  Winnie Giesbrecht, Graziano Sovernigo and a group of volunteers created a mission designed to help the families living in the Puerto Vallarta City Dump in 2006.  With full accountability of finances and information, the mission began to walk along with the families on their journey to self-sufficiency.

Since 1998 vacationers to Vallarta were becoming aware of a well-kept secret.   There were families living amongst the garbage in the city dump.  A small group of people met with Graziano Sovernigo, the developer of PARADISE VILLAGE RESORT in Nuevo Vallarta and formed a partnership.  This “little engine that could”, has grown to a full-fledged community center servicing 200+ families Monday to Friday from 10:00am-2:00pm.

With all the information being printed in the media and on the internet, FAMILIES AT THE DUMP feels it is time to let the public know who we are and that we have been working with these families.   If you believe what you have read lately, it indicates that these families have no support or that their lives have not improved.   This simply is not true.

A group of dedicated volunteers give their time, energy and heart to these people daily.  For the past 5 years, we have been quietly supporting these families and moving them forward.  If

you want to know more about the mission, please visit the website www.familiesatthedump.org    Not one to toot our own horn, we have been supported by word of mouth and the vacationers who cross our path at Paradise Village Resort, or the Church service offered there.   The visitors to the mission have shared their personal experiences with family, friends, their churches and local community service groups.

The mission was formed with the objective to provide the physical, educational, medical, spiritual and emotional support to the families living in the landfill or garbage dump in Puerto Vallarta and surrounding areas.  Programs have been developed to meet these 5 areas of need.

In 2007 as we created the data base for IJAS, the adults were asked how the mission could best serve the families.  The answer was EDUCATION AND A HOME.  The mission set out to do just that.

Becoming a CHARITABLE ORGANIZATION here in Vallarta took 1 ½ years.  It was worth the wait.   The mission is able to tax receipt in Canada, United States and Mexico.   FAMILIES AT THE DUMP has been recognized twice by IJAS (Instituto Jalisciense de Asistencia Social). Once in 2009 and then again in 2010 at their 50th Anniversary celebration.

With the recyclers in the city dump creating their own Sindicato(Union) in the City Dump, they have achieved a safer work environment, minor health care for injuries sustained while working and established rules to ensure that no one is living on the dump site, no child under the age of 14 yrs. is working there and that everyone is registered to control the number of people working.  All of this is positive change for the workers.

The families and this mission have been advocating on their behalf for 5 years and are now working alongside the government in power to lift these families to self-sufficiency through Education and better living conditions. 

Monday to Friday 150 children are fed lunch, 25-30 children attend Daycare at no charge, 30 children attend English and Computer classes, 12-15 children attend a Pre School class, an activity room is open daily, 2 nights a week 30 children attend a Homework Club, one night a week 20+ children attend a Reading Comprehension Class and Saturday morning 20+ adolescents are participating in a Teen Mentoring Program.

Medical assistance is being provided by filling prescriptions and assisting with Diagnostic and Lab tests.  The mission has been providing food assistance weekly to 220+ families regularly for the past 5 years.  A Food Bank is available for those needing extra assistance.

70 families will have the opportunity of a life time.   The visual poverty along the base of the dump will soon be gone as a housing complex is built and managed by FAMILIES AT THE DUMP.

All of the programs in the mission are provided by Mission Moms.  They work in the Daycare, the Food Service, cleaning the building and the Coop Store (discounted prices for mission families).  These women are compensated for their time assisting the mission.

3 families living behind the dump on Madre Selba are currently receiving assistance to complete their homes.

For the past 2 years the mission and its donors have assisted 250 children into the schools in Majesterio and surrounding villages.  BURSARIES/SCHOLARSHIPS are now available to children meeting specific criteria.  3 young adults are receiving assistance with their University Education.

The mission is providing assistance for home based businesses.

The mission believes that EDUCATION is the key to ending the cycle of dependency on the City Dump.  The adults may not be able to move on from this lifestyle; but there is no reason for this generation of children to follow in their footsteps



Should you have any questions regarding the mission or the programs please contact a mission volunteer. 

Mission Director  winniefad@hotmail.com 

Program Coordinator  brendafad@hotmail.com

If you wish to visit the mission when you are in Vallarta, drop by our Information Center at Paradise Plaza (upper level).  Tours/visits of the Community Center can be arranged for up to 10 people Monday to Friday mornings.