Jun 14, 2011 08:21PM ● Published by Erin Frisch
Employee-owned Company Sends Baker for Fifth Volunteer Visit
King Arthur Flour of Norwich, Vermont, shared its centuries of knowledge in the Dominican Republic for the fifth year, sending King Arthur Bakery Operations Manager and Baker Martin Philip to work with and teach locals using clay ovens built by volunteers over several years. The ovens are intended to provide both a focal point for community gatherings and a means of sustenance and income for impoverished families.
“The mission is to work with the villagers to help them develop a better situation for themselves through learning a trade that will enable them to build a micro-economy,” said Philip, who visited the Dominican Republic April 26-May 5, 2011. “It’s not entirely about baking. It’s about a transfer of knowledge – planting a seed of innovation that the locals can then take in any direction they choose.”
Philip joined a group of Norwich professionals, including a social worker, medical professional, three Spanish-speakers, and a lawyer, for the trip to the rural mountain town of Cotui, Dominican Republic. Trip organizers first recruited a volunteer baker from King Arthur Flour in 2005, and it was such a success that the company has participated ever since.
Philip taught locals various aspects of baking, from measuring ingredients to mixing, kneading, and shaping breads, and loading and maintaining the oven. He made Pan de Agua – “everybody’s daily bread there,” as well as flatbreads, seeded crackers, and a sweet bread called “Pan Dulce.” He also roasted traditional vegetables like peppers, eggplants, onions, cabbage, and squash in the clay ovens. “A lot of effort goes into gathering wood and heating the oven, so using the oven’s heat to prepare a variety of things makes the most of people’s time and valuable resources.”
Other volunteers on the trip spent time doing health screenings, including blood pressure checks, diabetes screening and education, and clinic visits.
“It’s difficult to express or quantify the value of this trip,” Philip says. “Food allows us to connect across cultures, language and experience in a way that is truly life-changing. I have the best job ever.”