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I learned a great lesson myself
by Julio Egocheaga, Program Manager, Quality Systems (Kraft Foods Latin America)

12 February 2008

Ecuador: From April 16th to 27th, 2007 John Kelly (from Tarrytown, NY) and I (Curitiba, Brazil) participated in a joint United Nations – Kraft Volunteer mission in Ecuador supporting FINE (Fundación para la Integración del Niño Especial), a non-profit, socially engaged organization operating in the Quito region, which helps poor and handicapped people, in particular youths over 15 years with Down syndrome.  The project consisted of training FINE’s students, their parents or guardians and the FINE bakers in the basics of bench-top production of confectionery products.  The training was delivered to support FINE’s plan to diversify its product portfolio, improve overall product quality and engage parents and students in the running of a small-scale bakery/confectionery.

The early part of the training was devoted to Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP’s) and Housekeeping as required for the safe production of chocolate products and cereal bars.  The remainder of the course focused on the handmade production of molded and enrobed chocolates, filled pralines, cereal bars and truffles, and ended with a review of bread production methods.

Throughout the mission we were most impressed by the active participation, commitment and motivation of trainees. We are confident that trainees assimilated and understood training contents and that they have a solid technical foundation on which to build a small business.

As a manager, participating in this mission has helped me to reinforce my planning, training and communication skills. It also reminded me of the importance of patience, empathy and managing through limited resources.

From a technical perspective, it has helped me refresh my knowledge of chocolate and the basics of running a bakery. Preparing lessons with little material available and for a young audience demanded that I really study what I had to teach, so that I could communicate it in a very simple, yet accurate way.

Most important of all, from a human point of view, I discovered that people can enjoy what they do even in spite of adversity.  When I saw those handicapped youth enjoying the lessons, putting all their effort in learning, and actually developing skills, laughing, etc., I learned a great lesson.  I don’t think I will ever become frustrated again, knowing that people with great limitations and much less resources manage to do wonders.

UNV is administered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)