Bar Harbor Foods Assists Afghan Women Food Producers

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Afghan Women Food Producers on the line at World Harbors

October 28, 2008

Cynthia Fisher returns to Maine today after celebrating last night in New York City the powerfully successful BART (Bpeace Apprentice Road Trip) of twelve Afghan women business associates. Cynthia, VP of Marketing & Quality Assurance for Look's, volunteers for the Business Council for Peace (Bpeace.org), an international non-profit organization which provides business resources and support to leading women entrepreneurs in conflict and post-conflict countries, with current programs in Afghanistan and Rwanda.

Monday night marked the finale of the three-week mission in which four of the twelve Afghan associates visiting the U.S. spent time apprenticing at food businesses in Maine.

Maine Host Companies included Grandy Oats, Stonewall Kitchen, World Harbors, Pemberton's Gourmet Foods, Swan's Honey, Abenaki Apiary, Wilbur's Chocolates, Pineland Farms and the Sabbathday Shaker Village.

The associates also return to Afghanistan with new principles to apply to their processes gleaned from their Lean Manufacturing training generously donated by Maine's Manufacturing Enterprise Partnership. Principles learned will enable the businesswomen to implement efficiencies and reduce waste in their respective food production companies, while increasing productivity and ultimately profitability, and creating more jobs within their communities.

They learned first-hand how many successful Maine food entrepreneurs have moved from small operations to become current mainstays of Maine's diverse economy. They learned how many of the different items they individually produce might prove to provide them with collective value-added products; this was very exciting to Zainul, who is a honey producer, and Mariam, a dried fruits and nuts producer, when they learned how to make a honey and nut spread at Swan's Honey, in Albion, Maine. Zainul also goes home with a recipe for a much-desired product in her country, a beeswax hand cream, which she can begin producing immediately to expand her product line and potentially create additional jobs.

As we listened to the associates recount the hardships they face pursuing their respective dreams and talk about what they learned over the course of the time spent at their respective host companies, which ranged from sports equipment manufacturers to radio stations to printers and food producers, one note rang clearly throughout the evening; entrepreneurs are everywhere and share basically the same vision; to create jobs and sustain lifestyles. As much as the Afghan associates may be taking back with them to grow and enrich their businesses and lives, they leave a tremendous gift with us; the confirmed belief that anything is possible with the vision and support of dedicated colleagues. As we all return to our lives and our businesses we realize each of us has made a small contribution that is truly worth the effort. Our world becomes more closely connected every day and the seed of hope and help is an easy one to plant and nurture when we witness its universally empowering affect.

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