A cooperative is a firm owned, controlled, and operated by a group of users for their own benefit. The benefits are shared among them, and each member also shares in the control of the firm on the basis of one-member, one-vote principle. It involves mutual assistance in working towards a common goal.
Su Lavanderia is a self-run cooperative started in 2008 with the goal to create an opportunity for young underprivileged students to sustain themselves throughout their higher education. The majority of the members of staff are students facing the hardships of financial instability. Voluntario Global has been supporting the co-op throughout its first years, professionally, financially, and humanly. The choice of a laundry project arose from Voluntario Global’s link with the Responsible Tourism network. This, encompassing a number of young hostel-owners, furnished the young cooperative with its first clients.
Having blossomed in the arms of Voluntario Global, Su Lavanderia has gradually sought its own financial independence, achieved by means of various successful applications to grants, such as the Young Enterpreneur Grant in 2008, the Omprakash Sustainability Grant, in 2011, and the Ministry of Labor and Employment Project Grant in 2012. In 2011 the volunteering association Roadmonkey furnished the coop with a team, in order to create a decent work environment for the workers, accustomed to live in conditions of poverty.
In 2013, the small co-op was wounded by the abrupt death of one of its most dedicated workers and founders, Armin. Nevertheless, Su Lavanderia operated a redistribution of the tasks, doubled the efforts, and changed and inaugurated in a new shop.
For the first time in its history, on the 8th of August, Su Lavanderia acquires a washing machine entirely by itself. The achievement marks the end of the cooperative’s dependence on volunteering associations and national grants. The machine is delivered in the morning. Walter and David help unloading the package and check that it works without faults.
Nadia, 21, nursing school student, explains how a new machine means more work, more income, and, consequently, the possibility of embracing more workers, like her. With a new machine, the laundry can overcome its peak of productivity, and grow. Walter, 25, comes from Peru and studies Management. He explains that, after years relying on bursaries and NGOs, the co-op can count solely on its invoice. They have attained financial independence. Walter also mentions how his job in the laundry’s admin team has tested him on the practical side of his university study, and made him experience what he only knew in theory. As a matter of fact, this job also constitutes the first professional milestone for the CVs of the students. David, 25, studies Sports Management. He confirms the meaning of the cooperative as a professional alternative for young people to pursue their studies and sustain themselves financially. He also claims how their main goal for the future is to create the possibility for this sustainable work format to replicate itself, by means of information and communication. Walter believes that young indigent students should be able to work and maintain their studies, with the efforts it requires.
Among its propositions for the future, the co-op intends to achieve a status of environmental responsibility, the opening of a new branch in the city, and a policy of promotion of the cooperative and solidarity culture.
“Las organizaciones sociales han sido y siguen siendo el pueblo organizado. Muchas de ellas se organizan para avanzar en otras necesidades como el trabajo, el empleo digno, la educación y la vivienda digna y así dan lugar a las cooperativas. (…) Si la rueda sigue girando con espíritu solidario, la cooperativa seguirá siendo una realidad sostenible y replicable.”
“Social organizations have been, and will be, the people working together. Many of them get together to improve other primary needs, such as work, a decent employment, education and a decent housing, creating thus a place for cooperatives (…) If the wheel keeps turning with a solidary spirit, cooperatives will have the chance to be a sustainable and replicable reality.”