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Information

What?

An independent co-operative built up in four years from nothing, and consisting of a kindergarten, bakery, printing press, small timber yard and print shop. It provides a Community Centre with free medical care for children, computer and literacy lessons.

Where?

Barrio La Juanita, La Matanza in the Province of Buenos Aires, some kilometres from the capital city.

Number of volunteers required?

Open.

Other requirements?

A good knowledge of Spanish is essential as few people in the co-operative know any English. Volunteering at MTD may be quite unlike any of the other volunteer options on this site because of the highly political nature of the organisation and its work. Volunteers, no matter how long they commit to stay for, will be expected to engage politically with the work being done. Volunteers contribute the costs of their stay. This is usually around 300 pesos (600 kroner) per month, but this may be negotiable. the income from volunteers is vital to the co-operative as it receives no support at all from the government. The previous volunteers raised funds directly from contacts in Norway to support their stay and contribute to the cooperative’s funds.

Benefits?

To quote from our first two volunteers:

It is very hard to conclude upon such an experience, but most importantly we can say that this year has changed our lives. It has made us grow up, it has given us a lot of knowledge that we will never be able to learn in any school. This is due to the fantastically engaged and caring people in the movement. We think that volunteering with MTD La Matanza is quite different from many other organisations. This is due to the very strong political aspect. One cannot come and not be interested in politics, if that is the case it will serve you much better to choose another place. The fact that we lived there for 7 months, in the same poor neighbourhood with the people in the movement made the whole experience very intense. We got to know a whole lot of people, we got many good friends from the neighbourhood, and we got to see life as it really is. We had the everyday life experience one could say. When there was no water, we did not have water either. When the shower was broken for days we couldn’t shower either. When they did not have money to eat more than once a day we did not eat more either. We learned more about reality these months than a textbook or even a person telling his or her experience ever will.”

Minimum length of stay?

Volunteers can stay for longer periods (see above), but many stay for 2-3 months. This makes strong knowledge of Spanish even more crucial.

Volunteer tasks?

Ingvill and Marte were involved in many forms of work, including: teaching on the adult literacy programme, working in the sawmill, working in the bakery (which means a very early start!), teaching English, working in the kindergarten and generally contributing their energy and time as and when anything needed doing. For a full description, email me and ask for a copy of their very detailed report.

Details?

MTD La Matanza is a movement of unemployed people. It was created in the mid 90s, when the unemployment rates reached a peak and the people hit the streets to protest. The concept of piqueteros was born, a concept used to describe the movements that used demonstrations and road-blocks as their means to be heard. MTD de La Mantanza was one of the central movements in these protests at the end of the nineties and beginning of 2000, but decided to separate themselves from the other piqueteros movements due to political differences. The majority of the piqueteros movements marched to obtain so-called “social plan” and “food-bags” from the government, as they believed this was the solution to the unemployment problem. MTD de la Matanza disagreed, as they saw the “social plan” only as a way of the government to artificially solve the problem, maintaining control over the population while making them do inappropriate work for an indignant pay (a person following the plan receives 150 pesos per month, equivalent to approx. 300 Norwegian Kroner). MTD decided to search for other ways of recovering the working culture through creating new ways of work without the help of the government. The dream of creating a co-operative was born. To make a long story short, MTD today have a co-operative which they call La Juanita after the neighbourhood, consisting of a kindergarten, a bakery, an editorial, a small scale sawing factory and a stamping workshop. They also have a community centre called CEFoCC, offering free medical service to children, free computer lessons, an alphabetisation program and so on. All this created in only 4 years, from nothing and without a single peso from the government.

Current volunteers?

None.

Former volunteers?

Ana Saraiva, Brazil, LPCUWC 05-07 (semeranembera@gmail.com)
Sarah Besch, Switzerland, Pearson UWC 05-07 (sarah_besch@hotmail.com)
Ingvill Breivik, Norway, RCNUWC 03-05 (nc03ibre@uwc.net)
Marte Haaland, Norway, RCNUWC 03-05 (m_haaland@hotmail.com)