The last Green Housecleaning session in this five-week class gathers around a table of organic cleaning products as the group gets ready to review what they have learned and put it into practice. These classes are sponsored by the Shirlington Employment and Training Center (SEEC) and funded by local churches and organizations. Arlington Presbyterian Church has a provided space for many of these classes. From left are Sandra Short, instructor; Claudia Delgado, class member; Andres Tobar, executive director of SEEC; Ana Delgado and Catalina Torres, both class members.
Photo by Shirley Ruhe.
The five-week Green Housecleaning class for immigrant women began in 2013 as the vision of Andres Tobar, director of the Shirlington Employment and Education Center (SEEC), who said, "We have SEEC that was established in 2000 to help find connect immigrant daylaborers with temporary employment, but these are almost always men. There was nothing for the women. This Green Housecleaning class gets to women with the toughest challenges."
Tobar said when he looked around he saw a lot of Hispanic women cleaning houses and he thought by teaching them to use environmentally safe products they would be more marketable. "And they are." Since then, there have been eight sessions funded by Rock Spring United Church of Christ, Our Lady Queen of Peace, and St. Mary's Episcopal Churches as well as general support from community organizations.
Sandra Short, who runs a housecleaning business of her own, teaches this class. She says green housecleaning is better for everyone's health — the people who live in the houses that are cleaned, especially children, and the housecleaners themselves as well as helping the environment. Short incorporates hands-on training to be sure the women in the class can put what they have learned into practice. "And always be sure you do a good job on the vents. Ladies look. You think they don't, but they do. Some people want you to clean behind the stove."
Short points to the large front windows at the Arlington Free Clinic where this session is being held. "We cleaned those windows last week for practice with vinegar and water. Add some lemon juice and some essential oil to make it smell nice."
Claudia Delgado, one of the women taking the class, interjects that she used 20 Mule Borax to clean her dishwasher last week. "It's amazing how it cleans."
Short said, "You prepared it at home after we did it here? Excellent." This is the last class so Short will ask them what they remember, then review and then test. Claudia Delgado will use what she learned to clean her house, Ana Delgado to clean the church and Ana Castillo to clean the first house in her new business.