BUCK-I-SERV, La Palma, El Salvador



Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.

Over fall break, I went on a Buck-I-Serv trip to La Palma, El Salvador and visited Leonico Guillen, a potential Ohio State coffee source. I traveled with several Ohio State staff, five other students and two staff members from Hubbard and Cravens, an Indianapolis-based company that sells coffee for the university and is focused on direct trade coffee. In La Palma, our Job was to build Leonico a coffeedrying bed, a place for him to dry his coffee beans. Previously, he only dried his coffee beans on the concrete ground. The drying bed we created was a project to improve his coffee.


  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.

Every time I travel I always make sure to have my camera ready. Through my constant need to take pictures on my phone  I had several revelations during my BUCK-I-SERV trip to El Salvador.  As soon as I landed my phone was out and ready to capture views and scenes I had never seen before. El Salvador almost reminded me of home, the Philippines. We saw vast green mountains, farms, chaotic streets, and even cows roaming around in the middle of the road. But although I was distracted by a new environment, I realized that I wasn’t just there to admire a pristine view. Our goal as a group was to help Leonicio Guillen, improve his coffee in the hopes of selling it to the university by the spring of 2018.

Throughout the four days that I was there I was tempted to take so many photos. I wanted to share with my friends and family instantly what we were trying to accomplish for Leonicio. I also wanted to show them how beautiful my surroundings were. However, it was quite hard to  share my pictures as we were working in the mountains

In our society now, I always assume that everyone moves so fast. That includes myself. Everyone is constantly on their phones or on some type of gadget ready to be connected with the rest of the world. Technology has taken many people away from the simple pleasures of living in the moment. My short trip to La Palma made me realize it is not always like that. Life is really simple for many around the world especially those who live in remote places. Leonicio and the people in his community have more pressing everyday concerns. Leonicio works to feed his family and to give jobs to others in his community. I saw children playing outside-no gadgets in sigh. One afternoon in La Palma, I saw people sitting by the side of the road eating an afternoon snack and talking to their neighbors. I also saw people enjoying the morning sun as I peeked out from my hotel. Sometimes we don’t have to be 100 percent connected to the rest of the world. Sometimes a pretty view doesn’t need a photo. During my last two days of the trip I took a step back and just enjoyed the view and took pictures in my head. I was there the same way Leonicio was. I was making friends, working hard, and was fully present in the experience.  

But although I used my phone a lot to take pictures, I also realized there was bigger purpose. Technology can be used in a positive way to help people like Leonicio.This is another revelation I had during the trip. My photos can spread word about Leonicio, his coffee farm, and his community.

This trip also made me realize that there is a face to every product we consume. I always buy coffee at Ohio State yet I have never thought about where the coffee actually comes from till I went on this trip. There is a whole story to every cup of coffee I consume. On this trip I was fortunate enough to learn about how Ohio State purchases its coffee and how they practice direct trade with the sources of the products provided on campus. I was able to meet Leonicio and learn about his life, his work, and his home country. Now we share a connection even thousands of miles apart.


  1. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation..

On our first day at Leonicio’s farm,  Hugo Valle and Carlos Garcia, an agronomist and environmental engineer who work for a coffee exporting company called Caravela, welcomed us and gave us a short tour of the farm. Both Valle and Garcia work closely with Guillen to improve his coffee. After our tour we went straight to work on our project: building a coffee-drying bed for Guillen’s coffee farm. We split up into teams and worked on different parts of the drying bed, we ate food together, chatted, had some laughs, and most importantly learned about coffee together. We even took group photos together.

When I finally found the balance between the use of my phone and being present in the moment, I learned that I could use the photos I took to tell others what it is like working on a coffee farm, living in a remote area, and inform people back at Ohio State where their coffee comes from.

During the trip I was also able to be a translator for many of my fellow trip members because not everyone spoke Spanish. I was able to talk to Leonicio myself in Spanish and learn about his coffee growing process. He told me how the land in which is coffee farm is situated was land given to him by his father. This was special moment for me because I was really practicing direct trade. I was learning about his life story. Hopefully, if Leonicio’s coffee makes it to Ohio State next spring, my first cup of coffee in the spring might just be extra special.


  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?

The revelations I had on this trip are valuable because they are life lessons I can take with me for the rest of my life. Our world is growing and technology is changing the way we do things and ways we interact with people, but now I know that taking a step back to just enjoy the moment, fully present, is often 100 times better than taking a photo or sharing it on social media. But this doesn’t mean I can’t use technology. Technology is at our disposal and can be used for positive things. The photos that I took will serve as a story that I can share to the Ohio State community, to friends, and most especially my own family. I can even tell people that their favorite daily beverage on campus is more significant than the $1.75 that they spend on it.


Your daily brew: a story in every cup