¨Being a gardener is a very beautiful profession, but being a good person and being assertive is what we gain from Fundación Esperanza y Alegría¨

Last October 5th was World Teacher´s Day and for that, from Fundación Esperanza y Alegría we would like to present to you José Francisco Esperón Rodríguez, the Gardening and Park Maintenance course teacher we have in the school of El Pozo del Tío Raimundo, in Madrid.

This is already the second edition he gives to the people of this neighborhood who find themselves in risk of social exclusion and have difficulty finding a job. Through this course, which is now in its sixth edition, its organizers Fundación Esperanza y Alegría along with Asociación de Vecinos de El Pozo del Tío Raimundo want to increase job the opportunities of these people as well as improve the living conditions of the neighborhood.
The course has been possible thanks to the support of Fundación Repsol, ACCIONA, Clifford Chance and Fundación A.M.A.

Does learning about gardening attract young people?

I think so, but because this is an eminently practical course. You can complicate it as much as you want, there are gardening calculations with engineering characters, but you can simplify it to the most essential parts. Gardening is very repetitive and it can be learned easily, though not fast. There are people that have been raking leaves for years and haven´t looked to do anything else, others have realized the potential in gardening…, at the end you set your own challenges.

Is there work in gardening?

There is work, but you need training. You can start from zero and stay in stage two, or you can start from zero and make it to a hundred. There are some who are very well trained and use very complicated techniques. The more training you have in risk taking and machinery, the more possibilities you have finding a job. We teach all of this in class, as well as the practical side to it.

This is the information that interests me the most, what techniques do you learn throughout the course?

What distinguishes us is that the students use machines in real situations and in a real garden. Sometimes gardeners practice in an isolated garden but don´t dare to show the neighbors. Here we have pressure from our neighbors who say what they think. They give them opposing views. It affects them because they are like their final clients. Fundación Esperanza y Alegría gives a lot of emphasis in that all workers need to have in mind the importance of prevention of occupational hazards, and complying with valid legality. Many of them take jobs illegally, but here they learn about their legal rights and how they should always be legally protected. We generate conscience that to work there must be conditions, knowledge of individual personal equipment, contracts, insurance.

Many of them take jobs illegally, but here they learn about their legal rights and how they should always be legally protected. We generate conscience that to work there must be conditions, knowledge of individual personal equipment, contracts, insurance.

So other than technical knowledge, they also learn values…

For me, the greatest thing we give in Fundación Esperanza y Alegría is that the students don´t finish simply being gardeners, they finish being professional workers. With responsibility in their schedules, punctuality, in taking orders, demonstrating critical spirit and manifesting if they believe the order is congruent. For me that is the most important part. Being a gardener is a very beautiful profession, but being a good person and being assertive is what we gain from Fundación Esperanza y Alegría. By being gardeners they take away what it´s like to work in a team. The biggest problem I´ve had working with gardeners is organization, but this course gives them that critical spirit. Fundación Esperanza y Alegría is also very aware of the importance of these kids finishing the course knowing how to speak Spanish.

Tell me about cases of success you´ve experienced with your students

I´ve had students that have learned to manage their time and realistic job possibilities, and students that have found full-time jobs in very specific and specialized companies in this sector. It is normal that at the end of the course students take substitute jobs in companies that have met them through practices and therefore allow them to take the appropriate steps to find definite employment. I will always remember a case about a student who had never used a calculator and cried of excitement when he learned how to use it because now he could help his children with their homework. The important thing for us is not the finish line, it is the road we take to get there, only then can we continue moving forward and without us even noticing it, we´ll make it to the end.

I will always remember a case about a student who had never used a calculator and cried of excitement when he learned because now he could help his children with their homework. The important thing for us is not the finish line, it is the road we take to get there, only then can we continue moving forward and without us even noticing it, we´ll make it to the end.

Would you encourage others to sign up to the upcoming editions?

I trust that gardening is a very nice work experience. It has changed a lot, in fact, 40 years ago things were done one way and now things are focusing on preserving the workers´ dignity. Before you would climb a tree without equipment, no ropes, nothing. Now that is unthinkable, they are protected by the workers agreement that assures three annual pays and defines their functions very well.
How is your relationship with Fundación Esperanza y Alegría and the AAVV El Pozo del Tío Raimundo in terms of this course?

The Foundation is on top of everything that happens at El Pozo. Everything we do is counting on the support of Fundación Esperanza y Alegría. Other than that, AAVV also offers support and collaborates with neighborhood resources such as the library, civic center, street educators, social facilitators, the health center or the cafeteria. Asociación de Vecinos is on top of things at all times.

What do you expect from this new course that is starting?

I am sure that in six months they will find jobs. We are training workers. This course makes transversal changes in a person. Giving a class, worrying about their needs, when they are outside of class and are receiving tutoring and afterwards knowing if they got a job.