The Covid pandemic is still affecting all of us. Like many communities around the world, the farming communities in Ecuador have also been severely impacted. Many families are struggling to make ends meet and children have been deprived of going to school, losing out on their education and the daily connection with their friends. Yet, during this difficult time we have also seen beautiful initiatives and stories of unity. One such story comes from Esmeraldas Province, one of the Palm Done Right palm growing regions in Ecuador.
Meet Daniel Andrade, a man with a never-ending commitment to contribute to his community. A soccer coach and agricultural worker in Esmeraldas Province, he has dedicated his life to stimulating and motivating children to be curious and to focus on learning in order to build a solid foundation for their future. Faced with school closings and suspension of all sports activities, including soccer, he found a new way to unite and motivate the children. Daniel started a food garden project as a way to reconnect the children through a fulfilling, educational and fun activity.
A father himself, Daniel understands the challenge of motivating children to go to school. Even more important, he knows the value of motivating parents to send their children to school. As a way to encourage both children and parents, he started to provide soccer trainings at the soccer field in his community. Dedicating more of his time to his voluntary role as a coach, he extended his reach and inspired more children to attend school, work hard and learn, with the fun of playing soccer as a reward. From the moment he started his initiative twelve years ago, his commitment never ceased: “It is my dream that the best player will one day become a professional soccer player”, says Daniel.
In 2010, a year after its inception as a palm growing company, Natural Habitats learned about Daniel’s approach as an effective way to motivate parents and children to attend and finish school. As part of its commitment to social welfare, which includes providing basic medical and educational services, Natural Habitats decided to sponsor the local soccer teams, set up soccer schools and provide gear and trainings. Daniel was hired as a fulltime trainer and was able to completely focus on what he loved doing most, supporting and coaching the children in local communities. Since then he has been working with four schools and 220 children in Barrero, Santa Elvira, Chaupara and San Juan. He says, “I find it very important to contribute to the wellbeing of the children, keeping them healthy, in school and off drugs, which can be a problem in this region.”
In Esmeraldas, like everywhere around the globe, Covid has had a severe effect on the farmer families. Even though agricultural activities and processing continue, all other activities in the communities have come to a standstill. But Daniel is not the kind of person to wait and see how things will develop. With soccer activities cancelled, the sense of connection and motivation that the soccer schools offered the children was lost. To restore unity Daniel started a new project in the community of Santa Clara. As a way to bring the children together and create a sense of purpose, he initiated a food garden project.
With this project, he helped children prepare the soil, plant seedlings and care for the gardens. With an eye toward the future, Daniel says the project is not only meant to ensure that families and children are supported, but that, when the schools reopen, all the students come back, and can be a part of something bigger.
Daniel’s positive outlook enables him to see the little bright lights that continue to shine during hard times. When asked about his personal silver lining in the past several months he says, “The good thing is that I can spend more time with my family and so can others. I also see more people organizing themselves, and there is more entrepreneurship. People are taking care of each other in their communities.”
During the past months we have all been forced to reflect and think of the positive impact we can make for the people around us. As a result, many beautiful initiatives have surfaced, like Daniel’s food garden project. And most of us have become more aware of how our decisions have far-reaching impacts, not just close to our own homes, but also in areas far from where we live. Let us all continue to be mindful of how our decisions can bring unison and create positive impact.
The ongoing commitment of Palm Done Right has provided a path to create positive impact in the palm oil sector. Palm Done Right unites shoppers, retailers, brands, manufacturers, farmers and communities to make the right decisions for people and nature. Let’s #UniteForPalmDoneRight. All our choices matter.
In the midst of the Covid pandemic we will be highlighting stories about collaboration and unity, and the importance of people coming together to create positive impact, stretching from farms to markets. #UniteForPalmDoneRight #ChoicesMatter
Written by Monique van Wijnbergen, Natural Habitat’s Sustainability & Corporate Communications Director and spokesperson for Palm Done Right.
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