Tuesday, February 21, 2017

F2F Host Highlight & Interview with DIDART's Christa Nunez

 Source: http://didartcultura.com/

The Rural Entrepreneurship Development is a tenet of Partners of the Americas' Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) work in Guatemala. This USAID-funded F2F program offers U.S business professionals the chance to support small and medium-size agricultural enterprises in Guatemala by helping them develop sound business practices.

Recently, Bill Nichols, a West Point and Harvard graduate, traveled to Guatemala to assist with these efforts. Bill volunteered as a Marketing and Fundraising Specialist with DIDART, a Guatemalan nonprofit that helps teach children valuable business and art skills. During his time, he worked closely with Christa Nunez, an inspirational entrepreneur who attends Hult International Business School in Boston, Massachusetts.

Farmer-to-Farmer team member Mitchell Opatowsky recently had an opportunity to speak with Christa to learn more about DIDART’s mission:

Interview with Christa Nunez
Mitchell: What was your initial vision with DIDART? And what is your vision now?
Christa: I started because I used to work with artisans. I wanted to create new lines of products. However, I soon realized that it wasn’t just about creating new products. Ultimately, artisans needed to know the value of what they were producing. So I thought that the best solution would be to local invite children to participate in the practice of their culture. We take raw materials from artisans, but in the process immerse the children into a world of handcrafts. We want to help both the artisans and the children in the long term. Our vision now is pretty similar, now we are focused on expanding DIDART beyond Guatemala, because this problem is really shared by a lot of cultures. It’s all about embracing your own identity in a world where identity and culture are tossed around so much. We really want to expand globally.
Mitchell: How did you hear about Farmer-to-Farmer?
Christa: I was working in Guatemala with DIDART and was looking for some potential partners that could help us improve our processes. In particular, we needed help improving the business model. By chance, I reconnected with Andrea Fión, a Farmer-to-Farmer country officer, who attended the same school as I a few years earlier. Thanks to Andrea’s guidance, I linked DIDART to the F2F network since we were working with artisans in the local area. After all, the main focus of DIDART is to use local products over foreign ones.
Mitchell: So what is it that you make? Who are you selling your artisanal products to?
Christa: We sell our products to Saul Bistro, who have art workshops and acquire our materials. DIDART has workshops with them every Sunday. In addition to that, we sell our products to schools, museums, and restaurants. So what we are making are art kits that are assembled from local materials in Guatemala and reflect the authentic culture of our rural communities.. We use a local material called mauge, which is collected from local crops. We use other materials like ripe pine needle, a fruit called morro, clay, and seeds that help to glue our work together. We want to encourage our local farmers to grow mauge and morro, since these crops are more suitable for the local environment and help us practice our Guatemalan heritage.
Mitchell: What kind of issues do you think you’re tackling?
Christa: We’re trying tackling several ways of preserving and promoting our local cultures. For many Guatemalan youth, sadly, there is an aspiration to grow up not feeling part of the Guatemalan spirit. Though our work, we are trying to  encourage younger generations to have a sense of belonging to who they are. As such, we are currently combing augmented reality and locally-sourced handcrafts.  We have developed an app where you can capture an image/video of your design and make it appear in the screen as a 3D model.
Mitchell: About how many children have you taught through your program?
Christa: Close to 10,000 children.
Mitchell: That’s really incredible. I’m going to switch gears and ask more about one of our volunteers, Bill Nichols, and his trip. What was the impact of his visit?
Christa: Bill really helped DIDART to improve our marketing and sales strategy. Additionally, he provided guidance around business decision that was offered to us by a Children’s Museum, where they wanted to develop an activity space at the Guatemala Children’s Museum.
Mitchell: And if someone else wanted to help, what would you tell them?
Christa: Just learn about what we are doing, and email us if you have questions or suggestions! Part of Bill’s visit was to evaluate a potential partnership model with a Children’s Museum. It’s all about spreading the awareness of what our mission is to as many people as we can. It’s a thing of educating, and we don’t necessarily have the resources to make this promotion on our own. As such, we will need to seek out corporate sponsorships to make these efforts possible.

Christa’s interview shows just how much an impact a brief visit from a F2F specialist can have on rural entrepreneurship development. This will be a growing program for the country’s field office, as it  reflects the foundational values of Partners of the Americas and the importance of a two-way learning exchange.

Bill spent nearly three weeks in Guatemala to help identify essential business strategy, and encouraged several marketing and sales steps that should be taken to grow the business. DIDART will benefit greatly by receiving assistance in setting up a systematic sales and customer relationship management system.  Various online systems exist, as several are free and are in Spanish.  The next volunteer to go to Guatemala and work with DIDART should help to set up and train them in the use of such a system.

If you would like to see how you can help, email Christa here: info@nim.com.gt

If you would like to learn more about upcoming Farmer-to-Farmer opportunities, follow us on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ag-and-food/

For more information on DIDART:

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