Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay



Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay
Written by Susan Hood, Illustrated by Sally Wern Comport

Publisher’s Summary:
Ada Rios grew up in Cateura, a small town in Paraguay built on a landfill. She dreamed of playing the violin, but with little money for anything but the bare essentials, it was never an option…until a music teacher named Favio Chávez arrived. He wanted to give the children of Cateura something special, so he made them instruments out of materials found in the trash. It was a crazy idea, but one that would leave Ada–and her town–forever changed. Now, the Recycled Orchestra plays venues around the world, spreading their message of hope and innovation.

Primary Source Pairing:
“The world sends us garbage. We send back music.” — Favio Chávez

In Cateura, Paraguay, a large garbage dump is also the home for thousands of people. Generations of families have relied on the garbage dump for their meager livelihood by sifting and sorting through the garbage looking for items to sell or recycle. In this poverty-stricken community, long work hours consume each day and leave little time or energy for anything else. Things changed when an environmental engineer named Favio Chávez visited this community with the task of teaching safety practices to the workers in the landfill. Chávez realized much more could be done beyond safety lessons. He used his passion for music to change a community one recycled instrument at a time and the Recycled Orchestra was born.

For this primary source pairing, invite students to study a map to understand where Paraguay is located in South America. Next, show students an image of recycled instruments for analysis – encourage them to use their background knowledge of musical instruments. Finally, as the instructional time allows, use the documentary about the Recycled Orchestra called Landfill Harmonic, as a way to extend the learning experience for the students.

Questions for Discussion:

  • What do you notice first?
  • Find something small but interesting.
  • What do you notice that you didn’t expect?
  • What do you notice that you can’t explain?
  • What other details can you see?
  • What tools and materials were used to create it?
  • What can you learn from examining this?
  • Compare these instruments to the instruments you have played.

Book Cover and Summary: Follett
Recycled instrument photograph: Wikimedia Commons
Landfill Harmonic documentary:
Landfill Harmonic movie trailer:
Recycled Orchestra of Cateura website: