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01/16/2020

3Mers empowering women in rural Colombia

This past October, 3Mers Amelia Fish, Caroline Samlong and Theo Schultz journeyed to Bogota, Colombia, to participate in the 3M skills-based volunteer program 3M Impact.

Since 2017, 3M has sent hundreds of its employees from around the world to international locations to partner with non-profits, local governments and communities to focus on improving lives and help solve societal challenges.

In Bogota, the trio partnered with the local non-profit Fundación Guayacanal, which focuses on sustainable agriculture. The non-profit tasked the 3Mers to help with it's MEEPZA project, which works to empower rural women to sustainably grow and sell products made from native plants.

The project looks to empower women through education and resources that ultimately provide food security and economic freedom.

"It's more than being able to have our own means. It's not having to ask my husband for money in order to do things," said Cecilia, a program participant.

The group began their two-week experience with several deep-dive learning sessions with foundation staff and a series of whiteboard activities to better understand and visualize the full scope of the project. 

"Because time was so limited, we tried to pack absolutely everything we could into every single day," said Theo.

The most memorable part of the trip was when the team headed out of the office and visited the women at their homes to conduct in-person interviews to better understand their situation and challenges.

"We were able to really immerse ourselves," said Amelia. "We could see what life was like for another group of people."

The 3Mers were welcomed with open arms as they had a chance to sample products, meet families and connect with the women on a deeper level. Caroline and Amelia took the lead on facilitating the interviews while Theo took notes on his laptop.

"The smiles of these women were priceless," said Caroline. "It was such a privilege to meet them."

After the interviews, the team compiled their recommendations, with each member providing their own special contribution. The trip culminated with a formal presentation to foundation staff that offered insights and opportunities in brand storytelling, fundraising, potential partners, sales channels and much more.

"I will never forget the entire journey," said Theo. "All of the little pieces that I take away will absolutely shape me for the rest of my life."

3M recently expanded its 2025 Sustainability Goals with a new commitment to provide 300,000 work hours of skills-based volunteerism through the 3M Impact program.

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