Cateura,  Paraguay

Favio Chavez


“The world gives us trash, we give them back music!” – Favio Chávez, Director
A true visionary, Favio takes the world’s trash and gives back music, and demonstrates that despite extreme poverty, one can transform a community and inspire the world.

Favio learned to play clarinet and guitar as a young child in Paraguay. His passion and skill at music grew, and by age 11, he was chosen as choir director at his community’s church. Music gave him a great sense of self and community and has turned into a life-long love. He studied environmental technology in college, and in 2006 he began to work on a recycling program in Cateura, home to nearly 10,000 individuals whose families scavenge the landfill for recyclables. Seeing the rampant illiteracy, extreme poverty, pollution and surrounding culture of drugs and gangs, Favio realized that the children needed something positive in their lives – something to keep them out of the landfill and striving for something more.

He decided to share his love of music with the children, and he began teaching music lessons using the handful of personal instruments he owned. He quickly realized there weren’t enough instruments for all the eager students wanting to learn. With help from one of the trash pickers, he started experimenting with making instruments. Using scraps of dirty oilcans, jars, wood, forks and other junk in the Cateura landfill, the instruments became finely tuned violins, flutes, cellos, drums… all made from trash. From this ingenuity, the “Recycled Orchestra” was formed with the local children learning and performing Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. Favio began the orchestra and music program with only 50 students. Today, he teaches music to over 250 students yearly. His commitment to these students goes beyond music education. Favio and his team meet with each student’s family to discuss the importance of finishing school and continuing their studies. Music is just one opportunity for a better life. It will also take good education and discipline to transform these children’s lives. He also works with the community to address other social ills and he brainstorms with them on how to break their chains of poverty.

The Recycled Orchestra continues to inspire everyone in Cateura and around the world. In 2012, the film trailer for Landfill Harmonic, a documentary focused on Favio and the orchestra, was released online, and the media attention was astounding. The story was picked up by CNN, 60 Minutes, and Time magazine who all retold the inspiring story of the orchestra. Favio is heartened by the global support. He is eager to do more for these children. He believes their story as proof that anything can happen, no matter the challenge.

We are now raising funds to help Favio sustain his music education program. Join us in Supporting the Recycled Orchestra!