Last month, Concordia Patron Member, Angelique Sina, brought her organization, Friends of Puerto Rico, and their pop-up coffee shop, Café Ama, to the 2019 Concordia Annual Summit. The social impact nonprofit focuses on mobilizing economic opportunities for the people of Puerto Rico. In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, we spoke to Sina about her vision for supporting the next generation of entrepreneurs on the often-forgotten island.
At the Concordia Annual Summit, you noted Puerto Rico’s bilingual and skilled workforce –– what makes the often-forgotten American territory one of opportunities? The fact that we are a small island in the Caribbean and we are far from the mainland contributes to Puerto Rico oftentimes being out of sight.
In 2015 you launched Friends of Puerto Rico, which raises funds for the arts, education, and entrepreneurial initiatives in Puerto Rico. What impact has the organization had and what are you proudest of?
We have been blessed to save the lives of youth living in Puerto Rico, while also having the opportunity to work with them post-Hurricane Maria and provide them with mentors and resources that will allow them to live a better life and gain skills to enable them to contribute to their economy. Our efforts have ranged from providing clean water to our youth entrepreneurship program, where youth from the age of 9-12 learn leadership and self-sufficiency skills through an experiential curriculum. My proudest moment was when the office of a Supreme Court Justice contacted us because she had heard of our work and wanted to support our mission. For me, that has been the highest honor.
You launched Café Ama after Hurricane Maria, which gives 100% of sales to the island’s first experiential learning/youth entrepreneurship program SEEDS. How many kids are involved in the program and what skills are they learning that will increase their employment prospects?
100 students from public schools in Puerto Rico will be part of the SEEDS youth entrepreneurship program, where they will learn finance, STEM, sales, accounting, and communications skills. The program is designed to develop soft skills and is complemented with mentors that provide access to opportunities for the students that will allow them to be the first self-sufficient generation and a leadership pipeline for corporate America.
How did you discover your passion for supporting Puerto Rico’s young entrepreneurs and why have you chosen to focus on coffee and sustainable agriculture?
I’ve always had a passion for youth because I used to be one of those students. Thanks to programs like ours and many mentors, I can now pay it forward. We chose coffee because just like our youth, it has been forgotten, especially post-Hurricane Maria. Both youth and coffee are powerful forces that can truly change the future of the island. Agriculture is so important to having a self-sufficient island, along with combating the food crisis.
Café Ama joined the Concordia Annual Summit along with two young ambassadors, Mia and Amanda –– what was their experience like and what did they take away from the largest convening alongside UNGA?
Our two students, Mia and Amanda, traveled for the first time to New York and their lives were changed. They could not believe Times Square or what it was like to be in a place of such importance such as the Concordia Summit. They are both from the Hurricane Maria generation and live in the mountainous coffee town of Aibonito. This video shares their experience.
You’re partnering with John Hopkins University for a new initiative –– what’s it about and what do you hope to achieve?
With Johns Hopkins Carey Business School we hope to develop the first, premier mentorship program that aims to inspire, engage, and empower young Puerto Rican women and girls to become entrepreneurs by connecting them with the AMIGAS global professional network. The program aligns with a number of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals:
We’ve identified a number of goals through the AMIGAS network:
What is your future vision for the next generation of Puerto Rican entrepreneurs?
My vision is to develop a generation of self-sufficient leaders that will revitalize Puerto Rico’s economy.
About Friends of Puerto Rico: Friends of Puerto Rico is a non-partisan, non-profit 501(c)(3) social impact organization focused on mobilizing a network of partners to create economic opportunities for the people of Puerto Rico. They are dedicated to economic development through results-oriented initiatives that focus on sustainability and self-sufficiency for the people of Puerto Rico.
To learn more about Friends of Puerto Rico and Café Ama, visit: https://www.friendsofpuertorico.org