Making music from trash

The Recycled Orchestra in Paraguay turns brokenness into beauty. What castoffs and broken places are awaiting redemption in your life?

The nearly 10,000 residents of Cateura, a village in Paraguay, eke out a living sifting through the mounds of an adjacent landfill for scraps to salvage and sell.

There are few less likely settings for Bach’s “Cello Suite No. 1,” but that is what makes the work of the “Recycled Orchestra,” highlighted recently by Andrew Sullivan, so stunning.

Part of “Sonidos de la Tierra” (“Sounds of the Earth”), an organization founded by Luis Szaran, this orchestra is composed of the village’s children, who perform Mozart and Handel with instruments built from the rubbish -- oil cans, scraps of wood, even rusty forks -- that surrounds their homes.

Szaran founded the organization to “promote social and community integration, democratic attitudes, and the useful employment of children’s and youth’s free time across the whole country by the creation of itinerant musical schools and conservatories.”

Having instructed 14,000 children in more than 120 cities and villages across Paraguay, the organization is well on its way to transforming the culture of “one of the most corrupt countries in the world.”

The Recycled Orchestra is in the business of turning brokenness into beauty, and beauty into hope. In other words, it is about as clear an enactment of the Gospel as one could ask for. What castoffs and broken places are awaiting redemption in your life?