Mind and Hand and Chocolate

by Amy Marcott on July 9, 2010

in Alumni Life, Learning, Public Service, Student Life

Brooke pours out beans to dry in a solar house. One possible project for alumni travelers will be to determine whether it would be possible to design a solar-run fan to help decrease the time necessary for the beans to dry.

Brooke pours out beans to dry in a solar house. One possible project for alumni travelers will be to determine whether it's possible to design a solar-run fan to help decrease drying time for the beans.

It’s not uncommon for MIT students to spend their vacations traveling to developing countries to implement innovations that significantly improve life there. But from July 26–August 3, three students will perform a service project in Ecuador with a twist—they’ll be joined by MIT travelers as part of the Alumni Travel Program’s first service tour, in conjunction with the MIT Public Service Center.

Brooke Jarrett ’10, who received her degree in civil and environmental engineering, and Adam Talsma ’10, who received dual degrees in civil engineering and urban studies and planning, got a head start on the MIT group and are in Ecuador now blogging about their fieldwork with the Kallari Association, a self-governed coalition of more than 850 cacao farming families from the Amazon basin. Located in Tena, Kallari has set an example of how Ecuadorian cacao farmers can organize themselves to add value to their product, thereby significantly improving livelihoods.

Brooke Jarrett recently received her degree in civil and environmental engineering. Adam Talsma received dual degrees in civil engineering and urban studies and planning. Both have significant service experience worldwide, including installing pedal-powered cell-phone chargers in India and spurring communities to participate in video research in post-earthquake Peru, which they are turning into a documentary. It will focus on communication between reconstruction NGOs and the post-earthquake communities.

Brooke Jarrett (left) and Adam Talsma both have significant service experience worldwide, including installing pedal-powered cell-phone chargers in India and spurring communities to participate in video research in post-earthquake Peru, which they are turning into a documentary.

Brooke and Adam have experienced every step of the chocolate-making process, from cacao harvesting to chocolate-bar creating to distribution, and are preparing for an alumni service trip that will prove most beneficial to the Ecuadorians.

The Kallari staff will share their strategic business plan with the MIT group for help shaping the future of their business. MIT volunteers will also prep and harvest cacao beans and offer input about optimal processes for such activity, help make the greenhouse more energy efficient, and consult on the management of Kallari’s rainforest lodge and ecotourism business.

Travelers will begin their journey in Quito, meeting the Ecuadorian people and learning the culture, then head out for fieldwork. They will be accompanied by a third student, Anna Waldman-Brown ’11, a double major in physics and writing/humanistic studies who spent time in Ecuador in January through the Public Service Center scouting service opportunities and building community relationships. She will share her perspectives and make local connections for the group.

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