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.
However, it didn’t stop there. I began my plans to found Cup for Education. An organization to help the children of coffee coffee growers around the world improve the educational conditions and bring access to better education directly to their communities. 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.
Maestro En Casa – 2011 & 2012
One of our current projects is located in the province of Intibucá, Honduras. This is an area of extreme poverty and geographic isolation that has historically collaborated to deny the rural indigenous population of their fundamental right to education. El Maestro en Casa works to restore this right by providing primary and secondary education to over 450 students scattered throughout isolated mountain villages. Cup for Education has supported these efforts by sponsoring one of the four educators, who, traveling by motorcycle, teaches classes in remote village student centers as well as the Study Center in La Esperanza.
El Paraiso Computer Lab – Heuhuetenango, Guatemlaa 2008 – present
El Paraiso is a long time project that Cup for Education has been supporting since 2008. It began with the donation of computers and software for after school skill building and education, and continues to be a resource for the children of local coffee growers. Art programs are held over school vacation, and additional reading programs as well for levels pre-school through 6th grade. El Paraiso has become a center for the community’s children.
St. Gabriel Kahata Primary School, Kenya 2011-present
Over the past 2 years, Cup for Education with the assistance of grants has been able to improve the conditions at the St. Gabriel Primary School in Kenya. We have build new pit latrines, for a safer, and more sanitary learning environment. This has encouraged increased enrollment. We have also been able to expand the classrooms, as well as build additional classrooms, and introduce internet. We have additional project requests as the need is great, but the funding limited.
How Can I Help?
Cup for Education utilizes your donations to assist in providing children in rural Central and Latin America, and Africa with the school supplies they need to create a better future for themselves. To learn more about our specific projects or to make a donation, please visit our website at www.cupforeducation.org.