Thursday, May 9, 2013

Cook & Affect: Assisting a Vocational Training Culinary Arts Program in Guatemala

In rural areas of Guatemala, the indigenous Mayans have been economically marginalized for decades. One of the biggest challenges they face is finding sustainable jobs, beyond seasonal agricultural work. Luckily, a fantastic local non-profit called Amigos de Santa Cruz is addressing that need and helping the locals of one such town help themselves and find work.

Since partnering with Amigos de Santa Cruz back a few years ago (see 2010 field report here), we have been charting their amazing progress in building their CECAP center, which is a vocational educational center for the local Mayan inhabitants of Santa Cruz. Since Santa Cruz has very limited educational and work opportunities for its inhabitants, this center provides very valuable training for the locals in six fields: sewing, computer education, carpentry, welding, foot loom weaving and culinary arts. On a recent visit, we saw these classes in action and salute Pat Torpie, the organization's founder and their amazing staff for helping prepare and place so many locals for employment that will allow them to provide income for their families. Their program director Juan Antonio is a great cook and patient instructor who shares their vision and is an integral part of the program's success.
                            WATCH FIELD REPORT HERE
One of the greatest successes of CECAP has been the culinary arts program, as all 17 of the graduates from the first two years have steady work as cooks in hotels and restaurants in the area. Building upon this success, we offered to help them develop their program, as they are looking for ways to make the program self-sustainable. They have established a small restaurant in the CECAP building, which has majestic views over beautiful Lake Atitlan. In one year, profits from the restaurant Sabor Cruceño have already allowed the culinary arts program to be self-sustainable.  

In order to expand their menu and bake goods they can then sell in the local market, Cause & Affect decided to help them by purhcasing the kitchen supplies they need to start baking pizzas, desserts, cakes, etc. With $955, Cause & Affect purchased a new food processor, a Kitchen Aid hand mixer, a rolling pin and various other kitchen accessories needed to expand the program's menu, instruction and profitability. 

We then brought in our resident chef, Linda Champagne (Adam's mother who lives in Guatemala and used to teach cooking classes and write cookbooks) to share her expertise by conducting a series of cooking classes to teach new recipés. In her first class, she taught them how to make pizza, including making the crust from scratch. Special thanks to Mom for her great help - and very impressive Spanish skills! It's such a joy to work with Amigos de Santa Cruz and their wonderful work helping the residents of Santa Cruz find such rewarding work.     WATCH FIELD REPORT HERE