The Project SPAMMY® Experience
As told by Frank Kubesh
Written by Kelly Braaten
In June, I traveled to Guatemala for the first time. The company’s Project SPAMMY® employee engagement trips had sounded interesting to me for some time, and I had heard great things from others who had gone on such trips. I decided to go, as I felt it would be a great opportunity to do some social good while spending time with my daughter, Karla, who was a college student.
I’d like to share about my experience on the trip and what I learned along the way.
My daughter and I flew from Minneapolis and met the other trip participants and the Food For The Poor representative, Leann, in Miami to catch our flight to Guatemala. When we arrived in Guatemala, we were greeted by several Caritas representatives (one of the company’s in-country partners), and we traveled to our hotel. We had dinner as a group that evening and had the chance to learn more about each other. Tired from traveling and knowing that we were meeting early the next day to begin our adventure, we went to bed early.
On Tuesday, we began the day by visiting the Caritas warehouse, which is where the SPAMMY® product is stored before it is distributed, and also learned more about Project SPAMMY®. Hormel Foods developed SPAMMY®, a shelf-stable poultry product that is fortified with vitamins and minerals, to help prevent childhood malnutrition in Guatemala. The company donates more than 2 million cans of SPAMMY® each year and has also helped open learning centers for children and provided scholarships.
After learning more about the program, we visited a nearby home to experience what the living conditions are like for many people. It was very eye-opening to see these conditions compared to what many of us are used to. For example, fire pits are used for cooking at many homes instead of stoves, and buckets of water – instead of washing machines – are used to hand-wash clothing.
We then visited a learning center called a chispa center. At these centers, children develop skills at different stations. Hormel Foods has helped open more than 20 chispa centers in Guatemala. We were able to play with the children at the different stations, and I was so impressed with them! It was very enjoyable playing and communicating with them, even though we didn’t speak the same language.
That afternoon we traveled to a community center where we helped take the height and weight measurements of children who receive SPAMMY® to monitor their progress, distributed SPAMMY® and other food items to families and also played with children who were there. It was enjoyable to help hand out food, and it was also special when the children came up to us and gave us hugs before we left, even though we had just met them.
That evening our group went out to eat, and we reflected on the day. Reflection each day is an important part of the trip. It is interesting hearing everyone’s experiences and perspectives!
On Wednesday, we traveled to a remote village to paint the inside of a home for a family. The woman whose house we painted has 12 children, and she was very grateful we were there. While we painted her home, she made tortillas that she sells in the community to help support her family. It was great to do a service project and to help someone who needed it. Painting the home took a lot of teamwork, and it was also fun at the same time. It was very satisfying to see our finished project.
Later that day, we visited another home and played with children at another chispa center. We then traveled to the Villa de las Niñas Girls’ Home where they greeted us with necklaces they had made and escorted us to a gymnasium. We were seated in the front of the gymnasium and treated to a wonderful performance of music and dancing. The Villa de las Niñas Girls’ Home is a boarding school for older girls from the poor villages surrounding Guatemala City. Hormel Foods provides scholarships for several students to attend the school, and we had the opportunity to meet them after the show. It was interesting hearing about their background and what they would like to do when they finish school. Several of them are interested in becoming doctors – a career they might not have imagined if it weren’t for furthering their education at this school. Needless to say, they are extremely grateful to receive scholarships from the company to attend the school. That evening we enjoyed dinner at the hotel with the group and reflected on our day.
We started the day by visiting the Centro Vocacional San Jose school, where we met several boys who are the recipients of the company’s scholarships. Once again, it was touching to meet them and learn about their aspirations and plans.
We then went to a vocational center for women who are learning how to make various arts and crafts to sell. We were each paired up with one of the women, and we made a craft together. My partner had made an additional craft prior to our arrival and proudly presented it to me as a gift before we departed.
After a bus ride to the historic city of Antigua, we served a hot meal to over 100 men. Upon returning to the hotel, we had dinner as a group at a restaurant and shared our final thoughts and reflections.
We were up bright and early Friday (4 a.m.) to catch our bus to the airport. It was nice spending some final time in the airport with everyone before our flight to Miami.
Some of the biggest takeaways I have from this trip are to be grateful for what I have, and that Project SPAMMY® is definitely making a difference in the lives of others. I enjoyed sharing this experience with my daughter and would encourage any employee who is interested in going to do it. The necklace I received at the girls’ home hangs prominently in the room where my family eats most of our meals and reminds me of the lives we touched that week. The trip was truly a life-changing opportunity. Experiencing firsthand the commitment Hormel Foods has made and the difference Project SPAMMY® is making for so many people makes me extremely proud to be a part of the company.
PROJECT SPAMMY® FOCUS AREAS:
- Nutrition – Hormel Foods developed SPAMMY®, a shelf-stable poultry product that is fortified with vitamins and minerals, to help prevent childhood malnutrition in Guatemala. Each year the company donates more than 2 million cans of SPAMMY ®, which helps thousands of families.
- Education – Hormel Foods has helped open more than 20 chispa centers where children develop skills at six stations: English, computer, psychomotor development, arts and crafts, imagination and sports. In addition, the company and its employees have provided several scholarships to further the education of children.
- Engagement – The company provides opportunities for its employees to learn more about the program and to help out through annual employee engagement trips. The company hosted three engagement trips in 2019 and will hold several in 2020 as well.
- Guatemala is located in Central America and has a population of over 16 million.
- The country has one of the highest rates of chronic malnutrition (based on stunting or low height-for-age criteria) in the world.*
- Chronic malnutrition in young children can cause impaired brain development, weakened immune systems and a higher risk of developing diseases later on in life. For more information about stunting, please visit thousanddays.org/the-issue/stunting/.