Volunteer Stories

Tony Timmons


Organization that sent the volunteer: Grameen Foundation

Name of the Assignment: Cultural Marketing of the Coconut Oil Collective


My family is a consumer of coconut oil. However, I have to admit, I never knew where it came from. I turned the bottle around recently and read that the origin of the product was the Philippines. I had visions of vast coconut palms swaying in the wind. But I never really understood the people and process behind the product until I signed up for a Farmer-to-Farmer assignment with the Grameen Foundation and a nonprofit in the Philippines.

The rooster crowing in the background during our kickoff meeting was the first indication that this was not going to be a typical marketing plan development volunteer project. The meetings, late on a Friday for me in the Pacific Times Zone and early Saturday in the Philippines, were an eye opener into where my coconut oil came from. I never imagined it was small family farms. Best of all, I could use my skills to help grow the number of these family farms, contribute to economic development, assist with entrepreneurship and make a difference for the Bicol community all at the same time.

The warmth of the nonprofit team in the Philippines shined through with every remote Zoom meeting. I felt like I was gathering weekly with family and sharing my passion and knowledge of marketing. I also got to understand the culture better and even learn a little bit of Tagalog.

Despite the limitations of the pandemic, I loved my remote assignment and felt very honored to share my expertise and knowledge to make a difference. Now, when I buy my next jar of coconut oil, I will have a better appreciation of where it came from and the people behind bringing the product to market. I know I will also have made an important impact with the development of the industry.

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