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Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at www.petermdewitt.com. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

The Laundry Project: Voluntario Global

By Peter DeWitt — August 01, 2012 4 min read
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“I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no “brief candle” to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.” George Bernard Shaw

What if college wasn’t an option? What if you soured academically though your secondary education but knew that you could not further your education anymore because of money? In America, we have come to a point where going to college is expected but not everyone can afford it. Many students enter their college years eager to learn and experience life. Some students enter college because they are given no choice by their parents while others cannot enter college because it is much too expensive. College tuitions have risen dramatically over the years but fortunately, there are community colleges that offer the same experience at a lower price.

In other countries, students are not as fortunate. In some countries, nearly 90% of the population cannot go any further meaning the cycle of poverty may never be broken. If students were lucky enough that they were able to finish a secondary education, they are ahead of most of their population. However, many of these students long for more, and why wouldn’t they? They don’t want just a high school education; they want to pursue their passions at the collegiate level.

The Laundry Project
One organization trying to help those students afford a better way of life is Voluntario Global (VG), the parent organization of the Laundry Project, recruits volunteers from all over the world to teach English and assist with kindergartens, orphanages, community and medical centers. Their goal is to empower the youth of Argentina with training, education and support so that they may pursue a future not possible otherwise.

Unfortunately, the students who become educated still experience a glass ceiling because of a lack of money. Organizations like Voluntario Global are trying to help those students pursue their dreams as well so they can shatter that glass ceiling. I asked Mayra Lázaro, Communication and Marketing Coordinator for VG how they help students reach their dream of going to college.

PD: How has the global economy affected Argentina?

ML: The state of the current global economy is introducing many individuals to the reality of a limited education the first time, yet there are several populations who are not new to this turmoil. For poverty-stricken youth in Argentina, the crisis is just another wave of rejections signaling a life of little opportunity.

PD: Could you give me an example?

ML: In the Villa Fátima neighborhood of Buenos Aires, only 10% of young people continue to develop their educations after secondary school. The rest are obligated to support their families by working low-skilled jobs that require more than nine hours of labor per day. The Laundry Project is a new initiative created to tackle this issue and present young people with valuable work experience to finance an education that would not be possible otherwise.

PD: What is the Laundry Project?

ML: The Laundry Project was created to offer the youth of VG’s children focused programs a chance to continue to grow as they transition into adulthood. 90% of these young men and women cannot pursue education past secondary school. The Laundry Project allows them to avoid the trap of low-skilled work with long hours and little pay. Instead, the members of the Project work together to manage business operations as their wages finance their high school or university fees.

The idea of the Laundry Project became reality when it was one of eight projects selected out of thousands in Argentina for a grant from the YPF Foundation. The Project currently employs nine students and serves nine clients. All clients are hostels or restaurants in the area, and the team completes an average of 28 loads of wash per day. Although the business is open seven days a week, the work schedule is flexible so that the team members have time to attend classes. The Project also offers a study space in the facility for the students to complete schoolwork, something that is not available in several of their homes.

The team has designated roles to maximize efficiency, with one or two driving the delivery motorbike while others wash, dry and iron. The inventory of machinery presently includes two washers, two dryers and one small iron. With additional hostels on the clientele waiting list, the Laundry Project has reached a ceiling of productivity. To accept these clients and provide this opportunity for more at-risk youth, the Project needs three more washers, another dryer and one industrial iron. Voluntario Global is determined to build a sustainable future for the youth of Argentina, however the Laundry Project relies entirely on donations (End of interview).

In the End
Everyone should be able to pursue their dreams but not everyone can because the hardships that surrounds them. In the U.S. we are feeling the effects of a bad economy and are trying to find ways to help our impoverished students find a better way of life. We have resources that many countries do not have.

It’s important for us to get a sense of what is happening internationally. It will not only assist us as we try to help our own students, it may also inspire others to do work outside of their own country. Fortunately, organizations like Voluntario Global exist.

For additional information about the Laundry Project and its fundraising objectives, please visit: http://bit.ly/LSOywZ.

To learn more about Voluntario Global and our work, please click here.

The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.