Here in Brazil, people tend to assume that Americans are super sophisticated, and that they are the type of people who only work with computers. I knew that this impression was wrong, but I wasn’t sure if the catadores (the waste pickers) knew.
I realized that the thing that surprised the catadores the most (and me also, I must confess) was the effort that the girls were putting into the project during the three-day green grease workshop. The girls were not preoccupied by the smell of the waste and the heat of Brazil. Also, the girls did not let the challenges that they were facing to make the oil engine work, ever bring them down.
When I was at Cruma, the co-op that hosted the workshop, one of the catadores looked at me and said: “These girls are very hard working! I thought Americans were not involved in this type of work at all!” They also said: “Raça!” Raça is a Brazilian expression commonly used for football players, when they are trying to reach the goal during games.
After the green grease car conversion project was complete, I had gone to one of my co-ops, Cooperglicério, and saw that the catadores who participated in the workshop were already spreading their new knowledge to other co-ops. For example, the Cruma catadores told others that making the oil clearer can raise the price from R$ 0,50 a liter to R$ 0,75. That is very important information for those whose incomes rely on oil management.
I was very glad to participate in the green grease car project and I’m excited to see how the knowledge from the workshops spreads to and helps other co-ops.
This post is part of series on a CoLab Project in Brazil on the Waste Pickers’ movement in São Paulo and Green Grease Cars.
Laura Fostinone works for ITCP-FGV* and is responsible for the co-ops that deal with waste management. *The Incubadora Tecnológica de Cooperativas Populares (ITCP-FGV) is part of Fundação Getúlio Vargas Business School (Escola de Administração de Empresas de São Paulo), is one of the most prestigious Business Schools in Latin America. Since 2001, the ITCP-FGV has been incubating several cooperatives in São Paulo and other Brazilian states. Part of the institution’s work has been to develop social technologies to improve waste picker cooperatives’ efficiency.