At WMS, we encourage students to serve their community, gain an international perspective, and take the lead in progressive and positive initiatives to help their fellow man. It’s no surprise, then, that many WMS/SMS alumnae/i continue to be internationally conscious leaders long after they’ve left the School and entered the outside world. John Foss ’04 is just one example.
John has spent the past year and 10 months residing in the district of Chiripo, Turrialba in Costa Rica as part of his Peace Corps service, and in that time, he has managed to break some incredible ground. The organization that John Foss has helped to create is called Coopeduchí R.L., meaning “the cooperative for the district of Chiripo, Turrialba”. This bi-cultural Cooperative of rural Costaricans and native indigenous is kicking off its first business venture in a project called “La Planta Processadora de Frutas para Pulpas y Mermeladas” or, in English, “The Fruit Processing Plant for Pulps and Marmalades.” Within the first year of the organization’s existence, they have successfully built and equipped a factory that includes a two and a half ton stainless steel industrial kettle with 1200 liters per hour pasteurizing capacity. John Foss and his local Costarican counter-parts are bringing the industrial age to Chiripo.
The plant was established for the purpose of developing added value products derived from local produce and creating a district-wide cooperative to stimulate the local economy by helping farmers recapture the gains made on their produce. The plant directly employs eight local full-time workers (all of whom are women), one outside administrator, 33 agricultural families (or approximately 165 community members), and indirectly gives support to more than 20 merchants, commercial vehicle drivers, and part-time employees.
The first fruit to be processed in the plant was guava, which the district produces over 770,000 pounds of during the five month annual harvest. All fruits processed by the factory are locally grown and uncertified organic. In the future, the Coop will also strive to make purees and marmalades from banana criollo, passion fruit, and raspberry, all of which are native to the area and are highly sought after internationally.
The plant was completed in early August; by the end of September all the permissions were obtained, and on the 2nd of October the first barrels of guava pulp were poured. Work continues with new challenges and new breakthroughs every day. John says, “International development is a tricky business. You need to be acutely aware of the locals’ wishes and, at every decision-making crossroad, make sure you’re not overlooking anything culturally sensitive. My experience in Grano de Oro can be described as one of those rare instances where the right blend of people happened to be in the same place and, with a collective vision to build a better world for our families, friends and neighbors, we surpassed even our own expectations. I certainly do not take all credit for the cooperatives success, but I am proud to say that it would not have come close to where it is now without my persistent encouragement.”
John has until the end of December to finish up his service in Costa Rica, whereupon he plans to return to grad school at the Monterey Institute for International Studies in California to finish his MBA. John graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2009 with a BA in Geography and International Affairs, minoring in Spanish and Latin American Studies, and a BS in Business Administration. John was a member of the 2004 class at The White Mountain School where he graduated with Honors in wilderness skills and was the recipient of the Head’s Prize and the Mountaineering Award.
When asked for a quote about his experience at The White Mountain School, John said, “HA! The White Mountain School taught us to relish in slogging through freezing rain, sleet, and snow; that our teachers can take the role of both our mentors and good friends; that when everyone is living and working inside the same community we do have to all participate to maintain it; that more often than not life tends to get harder; and that leadership takes many forms – not all of which are at the helm – and provided us with the environment appropriate to discover in which one we excel. Graduates of The White Mountain School are products of its staff and teachers, and for every day that goes by there is always some lesson from those wonderful four years that makes itself relevant. For this, I am very grateful.”