“Here my story, Pierre. My name is Roberto, I was born in this city. My paternal grandparents were Italian, my maternal grandparents were Uruguayans, and my grandmother was black. When they came to live in Argentina, they settled in the city of Monte Grande. I grew up in the city center until the father of my father died. We moved 3 km from here. I lived my adolescence being the son of a worker. He was a bus driver, and he was also a mechanic. When I was 15, my dad died. I was the youngest of three brothers. I have two sisters. I was in charge of the family, even though I was the youngest. I had to abandon my studies to work, and to give a better life to my mother who was alone. My sisters were already married.
I like reading, and I read all the time. My mother got married again, she had good luck to meet good men in his life. At that time, I was independent. I moved alone when I was only 17 years old. I resumed my studies. I worked and studied at the same time. Because my idea was to grow.
At 20, I married my first wife. I have a daughter named Yanina Soledad, who is now 27 years old, and gave me three beautiful grandchildren. I separated from her mother because we did not get along.
After two years, I met a new woman, and started living together. I had two sons, Claudio and Lucas. When she was pregnant of Lucas, she got a dental infection, and due malpractice, the infection went to the brain. And it seems as an irony, because I suffer from a disease that I cannot extract my damage teeth, because I bled. I have all my teeth shattered, until today. And that was the only dental problem she had. She died after a year of struggle. The doctors could not save her, because she was pregnant, and could not take strong antibiotics. After the baby was born, 4 months later, she got worse, and she was hospitalized. Doctors made studies, operations, and finally she died when Lucas was 11 months old.
Trying to save her life, I sold my house, my car, my tools because I had a small carpentry shop. I was left with nothing. My family tried to help, but my mother was sick, and needed a heart transplant. She received a transplant, but my family cannot help anymore, because they had to help her. And I’m a proud man, I like to fight, I do not like to ask anything to anyone. I can ask something for others, but not for me.
We lived very difficult times. We were homeless. We lived on the street. We slept under the trees, we covered ourself with a blanket. Sometimes I had to look at my children, and I had nothing to feed them. I knew nothing about the world of recycling. I just knew how to work, but I could not leave my children alone, because they were very young. I had to learn to recycle, because I needed to spend all day with them. I bought my first horse and my first car, working as a waste picker by foot. Someone lent me a place to live 20 years ago. I had to move 27 times in 13 years, until I could buy this land with a great sacrifice. Being a waste picker, you do not make money, you earn just enough to eat. So, I saved coins by coins, penny by penny, to buy a place to live. Because I didn’t want my children to suffer for not having a home.
I raised my children for 22 years. I had not other partner in my life. The few times I tried to do, the women weren’t good with my children, so I said no. I preferred to live alone.
Today, I have to be thankful because my children are adults, self-sufficient, and each one of them have his or her own family. My daughter loves his brothers, and takes care of them as a lioness. She takes care of me too, and fights with me because she thinks I care about others, but I do not care about me. I have thought about the other since my teens. Because I had to fight to help my mother, to help my sister. I even had 4 jobs to support my family.
Today, beyond that I continue to live alone, and has not remade my personal life, I think I got used to being alone. I am alone. I like to be alone. I enjoy the silence, to think. During the day I’m surrounded by people, children come, picnicking. I enjoy seeing the smile of others. I like to help others. I like to defend the rights of my neighbours. I’m already used to this lifestyle. I always have complaints from my family, because I would spend a lot of time on this. I’m at a stage in my life, where I feel I have something is pending, is seeing a better place, and help meeting the needs of others. I think about the future of my grandchildren. I think about the future of the poor children of neighborhood. And I’d like to give them a better childhood than my children had. Because my children suffered a lot. I would have liked to give a better education to my children. I’d have liked that my children finish high school, and went to college. But they knew the world of work and sacrifice. And even if they live as waste pickers, they want their children to achieve more things than they. It’s a continuation of what I did. As they suffered, they do not want their children to suffer.
I sleep every night thinking about how I’m going to win the battle the next day. And every morning when I wake up, I’m thinking how will I win the today battle. I’m happy with what I earn. Beyond my family complain because I am stagnant, seeking progress on others and not mine. I am 49 years but I feel young, I think I still have time to think of others. I think it will come a day when I’ll think of me. I am alone. I do not have great responsibilities. My needs are eating and having a place to sleep, and for me that is enough. I think I can help others to live better. When I’ll become an old man, I’ll have that debt paid off.
I am proud to do what I do, because I am not looking my own interest. I do not accept money. I ask people to buy materials or food, because if I accept money, people have a right to be suspicious. I tell my neighbors to not be used by politicians. Because they are not helping them, they are denigrating. I will not let politicians use people in my neighbor, and getting paid to help for that.
If the world were less selfish, I think we’d be better. There would be more understanding. And we must break the myth that you cannot help others. Everyone says that to help others you need money. I help others without money. It’s about solidarity. There are many good people, and perhaps the ones who have less are the most solidary people, because they suffered in life, and do not want that others suffer. I am a bridge between people who can help and the needy people. I am a communicator. Because if there were not solidary people, I cannot help others. I can help thanks to many people.”