Saturday, July 13, 2019

"The interview is about . . . Mae Sot, Thailand, documenting the Burmese refugees that call the dump home"

Asia Photo Review interview of Gerry Yaum:
In the vicinity of the Mae Sot dump approximately 100 families who have escaped Burma (Myanmar) live and work. The people are mostly from the Mon and Karen ethic groups but there are also other groups in the population. They have escaped Burma for economic and or political reasons. Many families working the garbage in Mae Sot have experienced war and extensive human rights abuses. Life in the garbage is a better choice for them, a better option than where they came from. They can work everyday, make money and build better lives in Thailand at the dump than they could back home in Burma.

At the Mae Sot dump all types recyclable goods are of value, plastics, bottles, cardboard, metals etc. Everything is dug out of the waste and then resold to local buyers based on weight and quality. Everyday the people, sometimes-entire families including children and the elderly come out into the garbage to scavenge. Food is often taken out of the waste, raw meat, fruits, vegetables, nuts, foods of all types, everything of value is used.

The families either live in shacks directly on the garbage, or next to it. Many of the photographs in this presentation were made in the homes the people live in, sometimes up to 9 human beings in a single dump shack.


My first trips to the dump in April and November of 2013, I would just hand out bags of food to different dump shacks, 2 or 3 bags each trip. Over time that evolved into much more. At the company where I work security, I showed the pictures to my coworkers and they started to donate hats, toys, clothing and money. So I started to take and distribute those things in the food bags. Later people started to give me money. With the donated money I would buy rubber boots, more rice, and other food goods to hand out to the families. With more money donations we (myself and the donators) started to buy headlamps, some basic medicines and a better quality boots for the families. In 2017-18 we did over $4000 CAD in donations, this coming trip I have $1630 CAD that I will use to buy goods to donate. For me, this is all a dream come true. The photos have led to direct help for the people in the pictures, as it should be.
*Previously: "Toronto built a better green bin and — oops — maybe a smarter raccoon"