The Business of Fighting Poverty: A Village Breaks Free

written by: Glen Warchol

The Guatemalan community of Xalibe, isolated by an hours-long bus trip from the capital, decided that the region’s most crucial need was a trade school. A class of 19 apprentice masons—one from each village in the region—built the school and were certified. Soon, students arrived to study as electricians and in animal husbandry. As the program hit its stride, the graduates fanned out to nearby villages to meet their needs and to train more skilled workers.

The village, which historically grew and distilled cardamom oil, took a quantum leap forward when Utah-based dōTERRA offered to buy the entire annual crop at fair market value. The trade school trained the farmers to produce better-quality crops.

With increasing traffic in students and tourist trekkers (Xalibe is renown for its beautiful mountain waterfalls), the villagers realized that, if they built a few cabanas, they could rent them to travelers. Choice CEO Leah Barker explains the domino effect: “It wasn’t long before the village’s women said, ‘If guests come, they’ll need a place to eat—a cafeteria.’”  The school organized a culinary class to train workers to feed students and visitors staying at the cabanas. A hospitality industry was born.

The villagers were on their way to self-reliance. “Self-reliant means somebody has surpassed the $1.90-per-day income to $3,” Barker says. “They can afford to pay for healthcare needs, and they have financial access to an education that can propel them to the next level.”

Additional Articles: The Business of PovertyA Rusty Box | The Young and Grounded | Built-In Resilience

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Glen Warchol
Glen Warchol
The late, great Glen Warchol passed away in 2018. His last billet was on the editorial staff here at Salt Lake magazine but his storied career included stops at The Salt Lake Tribune, The Desert News, The New Times and others. His stories haunt this website like ghosts in a machine and we're always happy to see them. RIP Papa Warchol.

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