Money Matters

He Built An Organization From Trash To Restore Human Dignity


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At 29, Brett Durbin went to Tegucigalpa, Honduras to find a cause for his church to support. He’d never imagined how this would change his life. The organization he ultimately founded, Trash Mountain Project, serves the people who make their living—such as it is—by scavenging in the developing world’s trash dumps.

With fires constantly smoldering, burning a mix of toxic and noxious materials, these are literally hellish places, Durbin, now 37, explains. Toddlers, adults and the aged—entire multi-generational families—hunt for food to eat and anything of value to sell crawling and clawing through everything from animal to industrial waste.

After visiting Honduras, Durbin looked for an organization focused on serving the trash dump communities he’d seen. A professor counseled him, “The last thing we need is another nonprofit organization.”

After months of searching, however, he’d found no organization focused on serving them—though some had activities and provided services there—so, with the support of his professor and his wife, he decided to launch Trash Mountain Project.

Today, the 501(c)(3) is working at nine locations in five countries with eight full-time staff members in Kansas and 44 people receiving full-time support from the organization working at one of the sites.

Brett Durbin, Trash Mountain Project

Credit: Trash Mountain Project

Living in an Actual Dump

“These are individuals rummaging through trash and waste to find plastic or other recoverable waste. They are the poorest of the poor in many cities. Their living conditions, their health, and their future is some of the most precarious you will find on the globe,” echoes James Copple, President of Servant Forge, which is exploring a partnership with Durbin’s organization.

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