JOY AMBASSADOR REFLECTS ON JOURNEY TO COCOA COMMUNITIES
By Jerry Anderson, Global Solutions Owner – Consumer Insights, United Kingdom - 02/14/17
The Mondelēz International Foundation’s Joy Ambassador program invites employees to serve and learn in cocoa-farming communities which are part of the Cocoa Life program in Ghana. This two-week skills-exchange journey, in partnership with Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), gives Joy Ambassadors first-hand knowledge of the challenges and opportunities in securing a sustainable cocoa supply. In turn, Ambassadors share their diverse business skills with cocoa farmers - from marketing, manufacturing, finance, law and more - to help accelerate the impact of the company’s cocoa sustainability efforts.
I was excited to be part of the program last October. I knew it was impossible to change the world in two weeks, but I was determined to do all I could to make a difference.
There were 14 Joy Ambassadors from different functions around the globe. We worked closely together and with colleagues ("buddies") from some of the Cocoa Life partner organizations who serve as the link between Cocoa Life and the Ghanaian communities that we work to empower.
We spent time in three different communities – Oguaa, Senchi and Seniagya – and received a crash course in the way the farming communities are structured, their working environment and some of the challenges they face. It was encouraging to see first-hand how improved farming practices through Cocoa Life can reach and benefit the entire community. In talking with the farmers, it was clear that life was not always easy; but people had a strong desire to make improvements towards their goals. Everyone I met was so warm and welcoming and I was inspired by their positive mindset, even in the midst of difficult situations. Experiencing the culture has opened my eyes and mind to how fortunate I am, no matter the challenges that I am faced with.
We ran community workshops on topics to help the Farmer’s Societies enhance their effectiveness, like relationships building, negotiation and collaboration. Without access to PowerPoint and other “go to” presentation tools, we had to think outside of the box and get creative, using games and role playing to deliver engaging workshops to over 400 community members. No easy task but it was very rewarding!
All in all, I feel our team really had an impact. Everyone was highly engaged, and walked away with solid action plans and relationships. Many of us are still in touch with our "buddies" and continue to support ongoing Cocoa Life activities. Augustus (my buddy) and I frequently share updates with one another -both personal and professional.
I was humbled by everything I saw and by so many of the people I met. After 20 years with the company, I had limited knowledge of what it really takes to create chocolate. This experience provided me with the opportunity to understand where it all starts and the inspiring people behind our products. The sense of happiness and desire to improve among those I met left me with a real wonder at the possibilities that can be generated by the human spirit! I feel like a new person in how I show up personally and professionally. Images of the vegetation – from the cocoa, mango and coconut trees to the roadside markets, and warm smiles of the people frequently cross my mind. It was a whole new world, and I was lucky to have been part of it.