Last year, as a result of the particularly cold winter in Montevideo, two people who were living in the street lost their lives. Although the Group was already donating large quantities of clothing through the Ministry of Social Development, it decided that the time had come to launch an initiative that would get the whole of society involved, given that every one of us is capable of contributing something, no matter how small, to change the reality we live in.
This initiative originated in Mexico, and we at the Aportes Group thought that it would be a good initiative for our group to work on, given that many of the people we work with are living on the street or in highly vulnerable situations, and especially because there are many more who we currently don’t reach.
The aim of this project is to improve the lives of people who, for various reasons, do not have shelter during times when the weather is extremely cold. It is not our intention to perpetuate or promote these situations, but rather to offer solutions in the interim, because as Abbe Pierre used to say, “When you encounter any human suffering, take whatever action you can, not only to solve the immediate problem, but also to destroy its causes”. While we at the Group work convinced of the need to change the society we live in, in the meantime we cannot be indifferent to people’s suffering.
Coat racks were put up with a sign saying, “Are you cold? Take one. Can you help? Donate one.”
The Group put up posters alongside the coat racks, and also carried out an awareness-raising campaign among local residents, on social networks and through various types of media (written press, television and radio). The van drove past every day to check if the coats needed to be re-stocked. Gradually, we saw more and more local men and women bringing coats to add to the coat racks. Increasing numbers of people were also coming to the Group’s office, offering to get involved in the project. The local population gradully took ownership of this project, and felt that it belonged to them. We covered the coats in nylon so that they wouldn’t get wet in the rain, but some local people went even further, and built a roof-type structure over the rack. One of the racks was put up at the corner of Silvestre Ponce street and Rivera street, and another was placed near Plaza Líber Seregni, a site that was taken over a few years ago and is used as an example of community living, where the group focusses the main body of its work.
This initiative has been carried out in line with the horizontal and participatory organisational structure of our Group. The idea was that all of us would be involved, whether by sorting the clothing, going out in the van, advertising the project, answering the phone, or anything else. The project was a collective endeavour, where every one of us - male or female, young or old – was involved.
With the local population and friends of the Group.
Phase 1: Finding out about the intiative.
Phase 2: Proposal to the plenary meeting of the Group.
Phase 3: Division of tasks (putting up coat racks, spreading the word, survey with local businesses to check they agreed, obtention of municipal permits, selecting clothing, etc.)
Phase 4: Implementation. First, one coat rack was put up to see how people responded (both beneficiaries and donors), then the other was put up afterwards.
Phase 5: Monitoring and restocking of clothing. .
Phase 6: Evaluation
Communication was being carried out throughout each phase.
Students from Forward High School participate in the campaign.
Every Friday, college students and high school students participate in the action.
The idea is to be able to carry out the initiative again this year, since it has become established with the local people and we think it is still relevant. This year, we will search for a third location where another coat rack can be put up.
- Local people have greater awareness of the issue.
- Two coat racks were put up for a period of over four months, and were stocked with coats as needed.
- Information was provided to the beneficiaries about existing shelters where they could spend the night under a roof and reduce the impact of the cold weather.
1) The people who we wanted to involve took a while to understand and accept the proposal.
2) Requests for more coat racks, as well as other suggestions.
We believe that this initiative is fundamentally rooted in the struggle for “Social and Environmental Justice”, because these situations are the result of the injustice of our society, and each project that we carry out forms part of the efforts to change this society.