Posted September 2nd 2010 at 1:46 pm by
in Waste Pickers Movement in Sao Paulo, Brazil

Organizing for the First Grease Car Conversion Workshop: Student Reflection


Although several members of the Green Grease Project had been in Brazil for many days, networking and preparing for the workshops, the bulk of the team finally arrived on the morning of August 23rd.  It was an exciting moment to be reunited with the people we hadn’t seen in months.

It was not long before we were plunging headfirst into Brazilian culture.  First, we had a fantastic dinner of assorted regional foods and then we had caiperinhas and enjoyed samba music at a local club.  It was a great way to start the week even though we were all very tired from traveling.

Upon arriving, we had some concerns coming into the project including: the local supply of conversion parts and the quality of the waste vegetable oil (WVO) being collected.  We were initially quite relieved to find out that a local mechanic had all the parts we would need, and that the oil quality was good enough to filter and put into the engine.

During our first week, we tried to finalize all of the details for the conversion workshops, including the video script and instruction manual, and have tried to actually acquire all of the parts necessary for the conversions and determine a final budget.  This has caused some concern because to stay within our budget, we were forced to do a last-minute redesign of our system.  It turns out that three-way valves in Brazil are much more expensive than they are in the United States.  However, we remained confident that everything would work out.  The new design is actually simpler and easier to explain.

We were expecting approximately twenty people to attend the first workshop with the catadores, and we were nervous!  Only a couple of our group members had ever been to a cooperative, we never saw the vehicle that we were converting, we did not even know if we had all of the correct and necessary parts.  Almost everyone involved with the project had other unrelated projects and commitments to deal with alongside this one, and this has made it difficult to truly be organized and ready for our workshops.  Despite all of this, I remained excited.

Photo by Sara Barnowski

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