Chocolates for the future

Marlen Sánchez helps student José Antonio Nuñez.

It’s 8:30 a.m. and as she does every morning, Marlen Sánchez, a special education teacher, prepares to teach her chocolate workshop.

Marlen has had many opportunities living in Tiquiyapa, a city in the central region of Bolivia, but like many women she has also experienced significant economic and social challenges.

This is why she is motivated to provide her students with the best education possible and to prepare them to face the future. These types of economies prioritize the satisfaction of the needs of people over profit.

The workshops began in 2017 to teach mathematics and language to young people between 15 and 22 years, and became a sustainable initiative that facilitates mutual learning and helps reduce inequalities.

A typical day at the workshop

On the left Estela Soles molds chocolate; on the right, at recess Esther Márquiz sells the chocolates they made.

The activities in the workshop usually begin in the morning, when the students arrive at the Jesús Maestro Educational Unit.

Today, Estela Soles is celebrating her birthday and preparing delicious chocolate skewers with puffed quinoa. Generally, she goes out with her friend Esther at recess and they sell them together. Today, although it is a secret, she says that those which are left will be used to sweeten and celebrate her sixteenth birthday.

Another student, José Antonio Núñez, makes pineapple skewers. Unlike his classmates, José takes the chocolates to the new stall they have acquired.

José Antonio Nuñez takes a plate of skewered chocolate covered pineapple out to sell.

José is 22 years old and has participated in the workshop since the initiative’s very beginning. Thanks to his efforts to continue learning, today he is proud to work every afternoon in a bakery in Tiquipaya. He has been working there for a few months and has already learned how to make dough, although his main job is distributing orders.

“With the money I have earned from selling chocolates I have bought utensils to continue baking and learning,” he says.

In the class there is also another young man, Axel Daniel, who thanks to his huge smile and his great skills in mathematics, is a great merchant and collaborates with all his classmates in selling the products.

Axel Daniel, who thanks to his huge smile and his great skills in mathematics, is a great merchant.

“I don’t make chocolates, but I help everyone sell them,” he says.

Axel is another example of how the workshop contributes to the exchange of knowledge and professional and personal growth. He dreams of working in aviation and the workshop allows him to acquire new skills.

Although he is an important member of the group Axel is part of the cardboard workshop, where boxes are produced to sell chocolates.

This is the first year of the cardboard workshop and, nevertheless, the two groups have already worked together to offer a good final product with high social value. This year on Mother’s Day, while some made wrappers, others prepared the chocolates.

Axel Daniel creates boxes at Jesús Maestro’s Cartonage Workshop.

The promise of inclusion

UNDP in Bolivia works in partnership with the Italian Cooperation (AICS), along with the Comune di Foligno and FELCOS, to improve the conditions and skills of these young people with intellectual disabilities. Together, they seek to create a brand image and build a new module so that the workshop is sustainable and continues to give young people greater independence as they move towards inclusive and equitable development.

“They are young people with disabilities, but that does not mean that they cannot be independent, now and in the future,” says Marlen, who remembers how her students were four years ago and admires the great progress they have made.

Whatever the future holds, their knowledge and experiences will allow them to be better prepared to face it.

A box made at Jesús Maestro’s Cartonage Workshop.

This initiative has been possible thanks to the support of the Italian Cooperation (AICS), the Comune di Foligno, the Fondo di Enti Locali per la Cooperazione decentrata e la Sviluppo umano sustainable (FELCOS) and the Autonomous Municipal Government of Tiquiyapa and Sacaba.

Text: Julen Redondo, UNDP Bolivia and Maria Susana Grasso, Digital Communications Intern, UNDP New York.

Photos: UNDP Bolivia/Julen Redondo




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