How IMPACT! Made Me a Coffee Addict

As I stare into the dense jungle carrying a machete in my blister-worn hands, I begin to admire the many sprouting coffee seedlings, the (literal) fruits of my labour. It is my last day working in Santa Anita La Union, a coffee finca run by ex-guerilla combatants in Guatemala’s 36 year long war. This is one of the many eye-opening experiences I’ve had during my 40-day field course studying the coffee business in Guatemala.

Only a year ago, when I was in full suit and tie attending a career networking session at my university, the Schulich School of Business, I couldn’t even locate Guatemala on a map. I had never travelled alone. I did not know a word of Spanish. And I was completely burned out and unsatisfied with my education. I wanted to learn how to make a positive change in society but my classroom lectures failed to teach this. I am a craftsman: I love to turn ideas into reality. I learn by doing and I cannot sit still for 30 minutes, let alone for a 3-hour lecture! 

Change was needed, so I began to take my education beyond the confines of a classroom. Networking took on a new meaning – to learn from people that inspired me. It was at this time that I stumbled upon the IMPACT! Sustainability Champions Training Program. This program teaches youth to apply enterprising methods to advance a social cause. I knew this was exactly the type of inspiration that I needed. I attended the 2-day conference, and took back a set of skills that I could not have learned in class. I shared my ideas of creating a better future with like-minded students that supported me and contributed helpful advice. The love, passion, and mentorship at this workshop was unreal and even to this day, many of us still keep in touch.  

Coming back from this workshop, I was inspired to bring my IMPACT! experience to my own school. With the support of the school's administration and students, I developed a field-course to study the coffee business in Guatemala. I felt coffee was the perfect medium to demonstrate my learnings of how business and social impact could work hand-in-hand because many coffee drinkers demand ethical sourcing. With humble gratitude to IMPACT! coordinator Josh Snider, all the staff involved, and my fellow 2013 cohorts, I am proud to say that IMPACT! inspired the creation of the first undergraduate field-course in my school. 

From leveraging my experience with IMPACT! thereafter, I honed my Spanish speaking proficiency, landed an internship with a social enterprise in Guatemala, travelled to 6 countries in Latin America, and interned for a multinational tech company in Chile – all in a matter of a few months!  If you are stuck in a rut like I was a year ago, have courage and apply to the IMPACT! Sustainability Champions Training Program. You’d be surprised how far a little fuse of inspiration can take you!

Que tengas suerte y saludos desde Santiago Chile,

Jimmy Chan
IMPACT! 2013 Cohort- Guelph
iBBA Candidate at the Schulich School of Business

To learn more about the IMPACT! Sustainability Champions Training and to apply for an upcoming session, please visit Apply today to take your sustainability journey to the next level!