The "B team" visits Chajul
Bongo Java just returned from a cold but productive trip to the Ixil triangle in Guatemala to visit producer partner La Asociacion Chajulense with students from Belmont University. The "Bee project" began in November of 2009 when Bongo and Belmont chipped in money to create a microloan fund for Chajul's honey-making project. Below, Tio Pistilli of Bongo Java explains the "Bee Project" as well as some of the other fascinating projects that Chajul is participating in.
Report by Tiolina Pistilli, Asst. Manager at Bongo Java
In November, Bongo Java teamed up with Belmont University and the Asociacion Chajulense each chipped in $2,000 to create a microloan fund. The fund's intention was to enable the Asociacion's beekeepers to bring their honey production capacity up to two export containers. In January, I was fortunate enough to visit an apiary that was actually funded with that loan. In Miguel Tzoy's first foray into beekeeping, he has built about 15 hives, each of which should yield between 50 and 80lbs. of honey this year. It was incredible to see tangible results, fully up-and-running, in such a short amount of time. (Visit BongoJava.com to contribute to this project and join our Bee Team!)
I visited the Asociacion Chajulense with a group of students and faculty from Belmont. For the students, the trip was research: they will spend this semester working on a number of projects aimed at fostering development in the cooperative. For me, the trip was an affirmation of the possibility for positive change and hope in even the most adverse of environments.
We spent the bulk of the trip in Chajul, introducing the students to the Asociacion Chajulense and the indigenous Ixil community. We visited apiaries, harvested coffee, and met students currently attending high school on scholarships from the Limitless Horizons organization. LH offers children in Chajul not only the funds to further their education, but also a safe, well-lit place to study, free tutoring, computer training classes, and a network of resources to help them continue on to university programs. At just fifteen and sixteen years-old, the girls we met were smart, confident and already living lives their parents couldn't afford to dream of.
Even our driver and guide was an inspiration. Fredy Gonzalez started a non-profit education and center in Chimaltenango. In addition to their usual studies, his students learn job skills and cultivate the food that supplies them with two sorely-needed square meals each day. Because of these extra incentives to attend school, they are able to circumvent the typical dead-end factory jobs and very young marriages that keep their community in a cycle of poverty.
Bad news is available on the cover of every paper and in every minute of the 24-hour news cycle. It's easy to throw up your hands and start believing that the world will always be grim. In the aftermath of thirty violent years of civil war, there is certainly a lot that's grim about Guatemala. There's a lot of healing yet to do. But that adversity is being met at every turn by everyday people armed with the world-changing combination of hope, practicality and determination that hit this jaded American as a welcome wake up call.