Our Beginnings

A message from the Founder...

On a trip with Women In Coffee in January 2003 I visited Nicaragua. In the mountains of Jinotega, the largest coffee growing region, we met with women and children of small farming communities who were members of cooperatives. These are groups of farmers banded together working to improve their coffee, lives, and economic futures. However, there was an important factor missing. The basic materials necessary to attend school, along with the actual schools in many of these communities.

If children are unable to attend schools in their communities, they travel to a nearby town or three hours (if they can afford to) to a larger city. There are no extras to go around, no such thing as science equipment or a library. There are no materials to take home or notebooks for homework. It has been proven time after time that education is the first thing to be sacrificed to low international coffee prices. Clearly community efforts to educate the farmers of the future need our support. How can they improve their coffees if they cannot read, write an agricultural report, study the weather or understand the fundamentals of the coffee trade? How can we ask people to diversify their farms, build strong cooperative organizations, become self-sufficient, and weather low coffee prices without basic resources for education?

In one such community in Jinotega, Nicaragua, we saw the power of the cooperative. They formerly held school in the back room of somebody's small hut. With some extra money, they purchased a plot of land and started to build a schoolhouse. This building was halfway done when they ran out of money. Women In Coffee, upon seeing this structure, were truly inspired. Raising $500 among themselves they contributed this money to "Los Alpes" to assist in completing the structure. When I returned home to New York, I entreated the need of these people to Coffee Holding Company and we sponsored a teacher for this same farm. This extra effort allowed two additional grades to get educated within their own community.

But it didn't stop there. At the Specialty Coffee Association convention in Boston in 2003, we brought more attention to this issue at the first ever Women In Coffee breakfast. Women from the United States and Canada gathered with women of Central and South America to discuss the obstacles preventing progress in the coffee industry. A raffle held by Coffee Holding Company raised an additional $800 for "Los Alpes" allowing them to build outhouses, chalkboards, and the beginnings of a small library.

It made me realize how underappreciated education is. Perhaps we can make the world a little better with the power of the paper, pen, written word and our actions.

-- Karen Gordon

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