I was born in the Province of Oruro 47 years ago. l was unable to finish school, because at the age of 17 I got pregnant. With two children - and due to the lack of work in Oruro, my partner and I migrated to Cochabamba more than 20 years ago. Here I have done several manual jobs, but it has been difficult because I had to take care of my children. My partner abandoned me, and I was left alone in charge of my four children. More than 15 years ago and with the help of my children, I managed to establish myself informally in a car wash business on the banks of the Rocha River. I saw this as an income opportunity where I could work with my children and make sure they go to school. Without receiving any training, I learned the necessary skills in carwash work by myself. Unfortunately, I was not aware of the health damage of using polluted river water and did not consider that I was polluting the river even more with detergents and grease from the vehicles. When the municipality of Cochabamba started to control contaminating activities, I lost my source of income. However, an environmental organisation contacted me with Swisscontact and their EcoVecindarios Project. Along with the members of my association, I was taught about the damage to our health and environment, and we became aware that there is an opportunity to work in better conditions, by taking care of the water and promoting its reuse. As the leader of my association, I participated in the design of a treatment plant and then worked hard to receive funds from the municipality and encourage my association to make a change to a formal work system. Swisscontact made us realise that we can work and earn better, that we can take care of ourselves and the water. I am very happy about it. All members of my association now work in a so called “Ecolavadero”, a car wash plant with all the necessary facilities, where water is treated and reused. Our working conditions, security and income have improved. I hope that everything we have achieved at the Ecolavadero will be within reach of other colleagues to improve their situation.
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