A few days ago, Amber and Mackenzie volunteered in Chocal, a chocolate factory run by women located in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. The women who run the factory also have their children help them. One of the Impact Travel activities aboard Fathom involves taking volunteers to Chocal to offer help in all aspects of the chocolate factory’s daily needs including planting cacao seeds, helping out in the nursery and helping to prepare the chocolate for sale.
Volunteering In A Dominican Chocolate Factory
The volunteers were divided into groups and then each went in different directions. The first thing Amber and Mackenzie did was go to the nursery. There they mixed compost and soil and placed the mixture into bags for planting. They lined them in rows and made holes in the ground with spiked where they then placed a cacao seed in each bag. An employee watered them and then Amber and Mackenzie moved to the next step.
At the actual factory up the street, Amber and Mackenzie then got to sample hot chocolate made at the factory. They said it was even better than what they had a few months earlier in Grenada. The first step in the factory was putting on hair nets. Then they went to where the beans were being roasted and took a tour of the factory.
They then helped to separate the nibs from the shell. The nib is the actual pure chocolate that is inside the shell. A few people sampled this, as well, and said that it was bittersweet and tasted like really dark chocolate.
Amber and Mackenzie then began to work with chocolate mixtures and placed them into molds in preparation for packaging. They had to be sure to scrape off the excess so that the chocolate would be pretty. Part of the process involved banging the tray on the table to get rid of excess air. You could actually see the air bubbles rise to the top.
They then went into the packaging room and began wrapping individual chocolates and placing stickers on the backs of the bags that the chocolates were being placed into. After that, they went outside and learned the difference between good and bad cacao beans and helped to sort them. They wrapped up the day by touring the gift shop and purchasing chocolates to take home.
Just that day, the Fathom Impact Travel groups wrapped around 1,500 bonbons, prepped and placed stickers on over 2,000 bags, separated and sorted around 100 pounds of cacao beans, and shelled over 150 pounds of cacao nibs. And at the nursery, they planted almost 900 trees where they will grow for 3 months and then be sold or donated to local farmers.
Why This Type Of Volunteerism Is Important
Mackenzie feels that in the small amount of time given, they were able to do a lot of work. This helps the cacao factory, especially the planting of the trees, because the Fathom Impact Travel group was able to accomplish a lot of work that would have taken the cacao factory’s small workforce a really long time to accomplish on their own. Since the labor was provided free, this also saves the company a lot of money that they can then use for other needs.
Amber felt the best part was that, instead of a monetary donation, she liked being able to work alongside the factory employees to help provide something that will last much longer than a single act of kindness. These trees will be around much longer than cash or another donation. This allows the employees to benefit from their own successes and makes sure they are left with something they understand and can actually use later on.
What Do You Think Of Volunteering In A Dominican Chocolate Factory?
Is this something that you would be interested in? Do you have any questions about our experience or the value of this kind of volunteerism? If so, feel free to ask them in the comments below.