Working at Chocal for the day during my Fathom cruise was one of those experiences I won’t forget anytime soon. The joy that was given and received during the hours spent at Chocal are hard to put into words. Chocal was started by a group of women who wanted to be able to raise their families and earn an income. What started as a small group of women has expended into a family of employees that work together to support the community.
During our time at Chocal we had the opportunity to help at four stations within the production of Chocal chocolate bars. Prior to visiting Chocal I had toured a chocolate farm in Hawaii and worked with American Heritage Chocolate. I had some knowledge of the chocolate process but being so hands on really took this knowledge to a new level.
The first station we worked at was packaging. I was so shocked to see that the employees at Chocal hand cut the silver wrapping that goes around each chocolate bar and hot glue the wrapper on the bar. This is truly a hands on operation. For some reason I never would have thought of them hand wrapping the packaging. I instantly thought of a conveyer belt that automatically wrapped the bars and packaged them. This simply was not the case. The young man we worked with said that he started working at Chocal because his Mom and family also works there.
There is so much love and family present at Chocal it is wonderful! The packaging was a lot of fun. Danielle, Jenny, Amy and I got a bit competitive trying to grab the chocolate bars and fill our box before anyone else. The young guy we were working with kept shaking his head and telling our interpreter that we were to fast for him. We were all on a mission to package as many bars as we could and really help the production of Chocal. I think we all felt like we could make a true impact for the company and help them move forward. Overall the entire group managed to package over 1,600 bars of chocolate while we were there. I love knowing that the bars sell for $2 a piece so we were able to package $3200 in chocolate for Chocal.
Our next station was helping to separate the cacao pods into which ones would be processed. I am not honestly sure if we did this right but it was really interesting. You had to pick out the dried, shriveled and ugly looking pods. But here is the thing they are all pretty dry, shriveled and ugly. We picked out a lot more than that Chocal worker did. I think we were all nervous that we would put the wrong one in and possibly cause an issue with the chocolate.
Our third station was probably my favorite. It was so mesmerizing and relaxing. I honestly could have done it for hours. We picked out shells and extra pieces from the cacao nibs. The work was tedious but amazing. Overall our group managed to clean 24 pounds of cacao nibs for production.
The final station was so much fun and delicious at the same time. Our guide whispered to us that we should be messy while we did it. We all gave him a funny look but then he explained to us that if you are messy and get chocolate on your fingers you get to lick it off at the end. We had the chance to work with orange flavored chocolate…oh my! Hello yum! We learned how to fill the molds and get the chocolate to set in them. This was so much fun. Especially the part when you lick off your fingers. Oh and if you want to get the Mom look while there as the master chocolatier who gets to lick the bowl at the end. She gave me such a Mom look and just shook her head and laughed at me. I thought it was a fair question. In our house the cook gets the bonus batter in the bowl.
One of the cool parts of our time at Chocal was having a Dominican lunch afterward. The food was simply delicious! Oh my gosh the plantains. I had to tell myself that I didn’t need to go back for 2nd, 3rds or 4ths they were that good. I don’t know what they did to them but they were some of the best food I have had in a long time. There was also rice and beans, eggplant strew and meatballs.
We spent lunch laughing with our guide from Iddi and learning more about Chocal and life in the Dominican Republic. I LOVED our guide. He was so sweet and so excited to share his country with us.
Working at Chocal was truly a highlight of my time with Fathom in the Dominican Republic. I already want to book another cruise in six months to a year to go back and do more work. This experience taught me so much in such a small amount of time. The love that goes into each bar of chocolate at Chocal along with the hopes, dreams and apsirations of a community.
If you ever wonder if something can be done starting with an idea look at Chocal. This womens collective has gone from an idea to funding education for not only the workers but their children. One of the women we met did not have a high school education when Chocal was started. She has now finished high school and is going to college taking classes in business to learn how to take Chocal to the next level.
Your time, energy and love truly does impact this community and their families along with learning so much about yourself!
Cacao and Women’s Chocolate Cooperative Impact Activity – $0.00
This specific Chocal Model is executed in the Chocal Factory, located in Altamira, Puerto Plata. The model consists of a mix of production station rotations in the chocolate factory. Factory activities will start off with a warm up dynamic followed up by 4 different work station rotations. A final experience sharing activity is held prior to moving to lunch area. Participants will be informed of specific impact their support had on the production capacity of the factory.