Based on an incredible true story, Building an Orchestra of Hope offers an unforgettable picture of human dignity reclaimed from unexpected sources. Carmen Oliver’s inviting words and Luisa Uribe’s dynamic illustrations create a stirring tribute to creativity, resilience, and the transformative nature of hope.

As a young child, Favio sang in the choir and played guitar.

Music was the first thing that gave him a sense of purpose.

But years later, after studying environmental science, his purpose shifted. Now he was headed to Cateura, Paraguay— a small village built on a landfill—to try to help the families who lived and worked amid the hills of trash.

Every day, he watched trucks dump load after load. The trash weighed more than a herd of elephants. 1500 tons!

Glass clinked. Metal pinged. Plastic bags rustled.
The recyclers, called gancheros, filled their bags to the top. They survived by collecting and reselling garbage.
They breathed a sea of stench. They waded through filth.
“It is not a place where people are supposed to live,” Favio said.
But people did.

It was backbreaking labor to swing handmade hoes all day long. Gancheros ripped through bags, foraging for anything they could sell. Five cents a pound for cardboard. Ten cents a pound for plastic.

Favio supervised the gancheros and became friends with them and their children. He worried about the kids’ futures. Would they end up working in the landfill like their parents?

Building an Orchestra of Hope

How Favio Chavez Taught Children to Make Music from Trash

Written by Carmen Oliver
Illustrated by Luisa Uribe

In Cateura, Paraguay, a town built on a landfill, music teacher Favio Chavez longed to help the families living and working amid the hills of trash. How could he help them find hope for the future? Favio started giving music lessons to Cateura’s children, but soon he encountered a serious problem. He had more students than instruments!

But Favio had a strange and wonderful idea: what if this recyclers’ town had its own recycled orchestra? Favio and Colá, a brilliant local carpenter, began to experiment with transforming garbage into wonder. Old glue canisters became violins; paint cans became violas; drainpipes became flutes and saxophones. With repurposed instruments in their hands, the children of Cateura could fill their community—and the world—with the sounds of a better tomorrow.