Today was global business day! We kicked off the day with breakfast with Debbie, our Program Coordinator at our local buffet, La Familiar. Today was a little different than past days in the sense that our two Global Glimpse Leaders (Hannah and John) and Site Manager (Indira) were absent today for their day off. For me, this meant extra responsibility and it was an incredibly tough yet ultimately rewarding challenge to be an introvert leading a group pretty much entirely by myself for an entire day. Debbie really stepped back and let me take the lead, which proved to be a great experience and one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life.
As a leading coffee producer in Latin America, Nicaragua is renowned for its wide variety of exotic, refined and delicious flavors of coffee. For global business day, it seemed only fitting to take a field trip after breakfast and visit one of Nicaragua’s most beloved coffee corporations – Soppexcca!
Soppexcca is a coffee and chocolate corporation that exports coffee to many different countries worldwide. The corporation owns a small cafe and runs tours of its chocolate and coffee making and tasting process, which we took part in today. Fun fact: Coffee grown in Nicaragua can be found in your local Peet’s Coffee back in the states! Another fun fact: The biggest consumers of Nicaraguan coffee are Russia, the U.S and Canada. The coffee and chocolate there was downright addictive and nothing like I’ve ever tasted before.
Today during the field trip, we had a presentation and Q&A session with one of the managers at Soppexcca. We learned that companies like Soppexcca are seldom found throughout Latin America and unfortunately worldwide as well, on the grounds that companies like Soppexcca pay fair wages, avoid outsourcing labor to sweatshops and provide training & equipment to their employees.
The reason companies like these are becoming increasingly rare is the fact that us, consumers, tend to simply look at prices and brands whilst choosing what to buy at for example, your local supermarket. However, cheap prices can be an indicatior that the company outsources its labor to sweatshops either in-country or out-of-country for cheaper production of goods. These companies do not pay fair wages to their workers, many earning less than a dollar a day for tough or even dangerous work. This leads to a host of problems for the country the labor is located in or outsourced to – for example, many workers under conditions like these have large families that they cannot feed, as they try to have enough kids to work and support the family. This whole family focuses entirely on having more children and working, many taking their children to work as soon as they are physically able to (which unfortunately, is very early as many companies do not have or effectively enforce child labor laws). The family does not spend time receiving an education, and their children’s children will perpetuate this model. Working conditions lead to a cyclical inhibition of the respective country’s ability to develop further as education is absolutely critical.
Besides allowing us to learn about the socioeconomic effects of poor business regulation in developing countries, Soppexcca provided us with a plethora of exquisite coffees and chocolates to taste and bring back with us. We learned with an employee how to professionally and properly assess a coffee’s merit on a scale of 1-100, ranking aspects such as flavor, aroma, aftertaste, taste and body by each tasting coffee. We then learned the process of making a chocolate bar, step by step. Beginning with the raw cacao, we then had to crush the beans, add sugar, melt and mix the components and then temperature shock the chocolate – it all turned out to be a very delicate science. In the end, we were not left empty-handed and left with a dark chocolate strawberry bar in each of our pockets.
After that enlightening experience, we made the walk back to the hostel and prepared for the community action project (CAP) presentation. A director of the local and only public university in Nicaragua (La UNAN), Don Emmanuel, would be coming to receive our project proposal. We got into our respective groups for the project and fleshed out our ideas, further developing out plan of action, purpose and logistics of carrying out the CAP. We also agreed upon a mural design, which will be revealed for all o you in one of our upcoming blogs this week. All of us worked hard to produce something that represented our delegation and connected back to the community of Jinotega.
It was nerve-wracking at first to present to the director. After all, he was dressed professionally and was very businesslike, and we were just a couple of kids. However, after proposing the CAP to him, immediatly we were all surprised with how grateful he truly was for our work. We are doing something bigger than any one of ourselves, and that really sunk in at that moment with his genuine gratitude.
We wrapped up the day with dinner at La Familiar and English tutoring, which seems to somehow get more fun every day. It’s so incredibly rewarding to see the “aha!” look on one of our student’s faces and it is hilarious to hear the kind of questions they ask, but at the same time, these questions really reveal that our tutoring is a huge opportunity for them and they want to take full advantage of it.
The biggest personal challenge today was being a leader – I certainly am not the loudest person in the room, nor will I ever be, but today I realized that being a leader isn’t about being bossy or loud – it so much more – it is about being a role model and helping others lead and be the best they can be. On various occasions, I was forced out of my (mind you, rather small) comfort zone and thrust into the spotlight to assume the position of leading the group through headcounts, meals, errands, an hour-long seminar for our CAP and finally, a CAP proposal to Don Emmanuel.
All in all, this proved to be an amazing opportunity to me. The only place you can expand your comfort zone, or to grow as a person, is to step out of your comfort zone. I did that nearly every second of today and trust me, it was not easy. I’m truly grateful for everything that happened and for everything we were exposed to today. Every day in Jinotega is a culture shock, and today was no different. We met so many inspiring people and reflected deeply upon global and local business issues.
One major take-away from today is to be very conscientious as a consumer. In the U.S., we consume a lot. And I mean a lot. It is really our job in the coming years to take initiative and responsibility to pay attention to what we buy, and not perpetuate unfair working conditions. From now on, our delegation will be more attentive and aware of what we buy, so we aren’t keeping people stuck in sweatshops in countries like Nicaragua in a devastating cyclical spiral of not being able to develop further.
Much love to those at home – I and everyone else here will have tons of stories to tell when we get back! For now, enjoy this blog and the photos 🙂