Carl Eberts traveled to Antigua, Guatemala as part of an MBA class and was fortunate enough to see the importance of microloans and organizations, like De La Gente, that help in giving low income Guatemalans a higher quality of life.
“This trip gave me the opportunity to experience the real life challenges people face in rural Guatemala and explore how businesses with a socially minded foundation can benefit these people. Within the first two days, we met with textile workers, brick makers, and a baker, all who have expanded their business through loans from microfinance institutions. On the third day, we were able to learn about the process of how coffee beans are grown and processed by a local farmer and his family. It was an amazing opportunity to witness firsthand how social entrepreneurship can make a substantial difference in people’s lives. The local farmer’s name was Mercedes and he proudly showed us his coffee operation from planting to roasting the beans, all while hiking across his land. He told us that he started out as a farm hand, making mere pennies a day. However, after receiving help from microloans, he has finally been able to purchase land of his own. Along with the assistance of De La Gente, an organization that is committed to increasing the livelihood of farmers and their families, Mercedes went from just selling unprocessed coffee beans to husking and roasting them. Since the individual pieces of equipment were too expensive for any individual coffee farmer to purchase on his own, several farmers formed a coop and purchased one piece of equipment each to help in the process of picking coffee berries and roasting the beans. The coop has allowed them to create significantly more income for themselves and their families. After listening to Mercedes’ story, my understanding of the factors that perpetuate poverty has expanded, as well as the differences between actions that first world countries take to help alleviate poverty, versus those that only appear to help. The experiences that I had in Guatemala opened my mind to the ingenuity and resilience of citizens living in underdeveloped countries and how it really is a systematic problem that must be attacked from multiple angles. I believe that it is important for myself and others to look for opportunities in our own communities that harness mutually beneficial relationships to achieve more than would be possible alone.
An unexpected benefit of traveling abroad with an MBA class is the amount of time spent in transit with like-minded business people. Being around the same peers for an extended period of time allowed for networking that was far more significant than a single random mixer or event together. We spent several hours a day together being transported around to different locations and went out to dinner as a group almost every night. I bonded with fellow classmates over Argentinian steaks, volcanoes erupting, as well as Mexican airport customs. Over the course of the trip, I discussed many international business topics with a doctor that had worked in a clinic in the Dominican Republic and also gained some insight into the history of the Guatemalan government through the eyes of an expat living abroad in Antigua. The connections I made abroad will last longer and carry more weight than others made domestically. I hope to be able to take several more classes abroad during my MBA program at USD.”
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