Lucia Herrera: president of Pantaleon Foundation.

Author:Gutierrez, Santiago


Students at the Wilfrido Campos Poveda school, in Choluteca, Honduras, used to have no option but to have their lessons outdoors. It wasn't until this year that they could study in classrooms with roofs, thanks to the work of the Pantaleon Foundation.

The Foundation is one of the best examples of a corporate initiative aimed at changing social action, both for their employees and the communities near where their production is based.

Created in Guatemala in 1993, the Foundation was created by Grupo Pantaleon, one of Latin America's largest producers of sugarcane, sugar and its derivatives. The company decided to make a contribution to the Foundations programs based on the production of its sugar mills, the president of the Foundation, Lucia Herrera, told Latin Trade.

The organization has launched a three-pronged course of action--in education, health and environment. The results have made major contributions in these areas to Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras over the last 20 years.

One of the most interesting projects is the provision of literacy skills and primary education for cane-cutters who have been with the company for at least six months during the sugarcane harvest. The cane-cutters attend school within the sugar refinery and are free to continue their studies within their communities. Several of those who have finished the program have been promoted; others go on to study further, said Lucia Herrera. The Foundation has also established scholarship and student credit programs for those who finish primary education and wish to continue their studies. Some who have taken part in the primary education program are now studying in universities, Herrera added. According to experts in the field, this is something of a miracle in Latin America, where many people find education to be a major roadblock against their hopes to achieve social and financial stability.

Another interesting project is the vocational studies program. In Nicaragua, the Pantaleon Educational Center offers vocational high school courses to employees' children and people who live near the company's production plants. They can take courses...

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