Rusty the 5 year old rubbish collector – Mark Stecher

Last week Cel and I were picking up some food for lunch when I noticed a small boy carrying two large bags full of recyclables, both large enough for him to fit completely inside! We stopped and spoke to him and found out that his name was Rusty and he was only 5 years old. It turns out that he was collecting rubbish to sell so that he could buy some rice for his family. He has a mother and 15 siblings and was dirty with bare, calloused feet that must have been very tough because he was walking across the steaming hot, broken concrete as though it was shagpile carpet!

He was polite and answered Cel’s questions about who he was and what he was doing. We gave him some money and then asked if he could take us to his family because we felt so so touched by his situation that we wanted to help more. He refused to come in the car with us which was very smart of him… perhaps he thought that I was a stalker or kidnapper! We watched him walk away and followed at a bit of a distance and when he thought he was out of site we saw him stop and count the money – he had huge smile and punched the air with excitement and joy. When I see things like that it makes me realise that there is almost nothing better that the joy of putting a smile on someone’s face and making their day just a bit brighter.

We continued to follow at a bit of a distance, very slowly and he kept looking back at us frequently, maybe thinking that we were up to no good. As he was walking he kept adjusting his load and at one point stopped to get a tray from a nearby shop owner. He eventually disappeared down a side alley which looked like where he lived and at that point we decided to leave him in peace.

I realised that whilst I feel very sorry for the plight of beggars here who simply going around holding their hand out for money, I feel almost overwhelmed when I see people doing something to help themselves. This small boy had a job to do, I don’t know how long he had been working that day, however we saw him walk at least 2 Kms back to his house with these two bags on his back. It is truly amazing to think that if that 5 year old child has that work ethic and focus, can you imagine what he could achieve if he had an education and opportunity!