SU Lavandería is a student-run, co-operative company founded by Voluntario Global five years ago. The launderette, originally being a project set up by Voluntario Global, has established itself as an independent service provider to local hotels and hostels that are part of the Responsible Tourism Network. It is important for Voluntario Global that this project gives more to young people than just financial help.
Currently, there are nine young people working at SU Lavandería - six boys and three girls. Coming from different parts of South America, including Bolivia and Paraguay, the nine members of the SU Lavandería team bring a diversity of cultural backgrounds to the workplace. They all come from one of the villas (shanty towns) around the city of Buenos Aires. Their lives are marked by poor living standards in a disadvantaged society where the majority of their peers do not have the opportunity to get a decent education or career. Many young people are so busy supporting their families that focusing on their own education often becomes second priority. For a lot of people with financial stability and support from home, situations like these are hard to imagine. It is normal to pursue a university education or spend time abroad to make experiences and grow as a person. For the nine youngsters, SU Lavandería is a chance to at least achieve a university degree or to pursue their dreams for a better education while ensuring some financial support for themselves and their families. It is also a chance to learn skills beyond their immediate tasks that will benefit their future life, no matter if they work or study.
The people working at the SU Lavandería are in different stages of their life. David, who has been working with the launderette since the very beginning, has just finished his studies as a personal trainer. Since he finished, he took on another job in the field of maintenance and gardening that he needs to coordinate with his work at the laundry. "My work at SU Lavandería did not stop for me after finishing my degree. This project became a part of my life and I want to continue engaging in it", he said. This is possible because of the flexible organisation of the launderette; a new schedule is set up every 3 months to accommodate the changing needs of the nine employees. This allows each of them to develop their ambitions on pursuing another occupation such as studying or working in another job. Gabi, a young girl studying to become a nurse, explains how she intends to manage both working and studying. "Often, I'm using the bus ride to work and back home to study. Sometimes I also find myself staying at the laundry before or after work for a little while to study."
No matter if they are still studying or have already finished their studies, for all of them the work at the SU Lavandería is a great chance to gain important life skills. "With the responsibility of working in the laundry project, we all are confronted with daily challenges that we need to manage and that make us learn beyond our obvious tasks. We all need to coordinate the work that has to be done. We have to constantly communicate with each other about the things we do and most of all work together as a team.”, describes David who is in charge of the laundry project. What David says matches the goal of Voluntario Global as an organization. It is important to support people in order for them to be able to have a stable future - financially as well as personally. “When someone new is joining the team we are doing our best to integrate this person into our routines as quickly as possible. We are asked to provide proper instructions to handling the machines and try our very best to make them a true team member as quickly as possible.”
Working at SU Lavandería - for the nine youngsters it especially means working in a team. For them it’s not like any job but a part of their lives. Besides the work, they acquire a lot of other valuable skills and qualities. Integration, team-work, communication and openness are the key characteristics for SU Lavandería, Voluntario Global and all their projects. Ultimately, SU Lavandería is Voluntario Global’s first own project that reflects what we stand for and what we want to achieve.