Thanks to a partnership between Planting Hope, New Grounds Food, and the Chain Collaborative, one dedicated teacher and bunch of eager kids from of the community El Coyol in Pueblo Viejo, Matagalpa, Nicaragua, are finally getting a real school of their own
FROM STAFF REPORTS
One of the trends coffee companies are following these days is wanting to support the producers they are already buying from. œThere’s absolutely no problem with that, says The Chain Collaborative director Nora Burkey. œIn fact, it’s great. The challenge is that there are countless obstacles to confront before launching what would seem like a somewhat simple project ”building a school in a community you’re buying from, for example. Whose land will the school be built on? Is it donated or do you have to buy it? Are there other schools within a certain mile radius such that foundations will tell you they won’t build it due to a lack of need, or such that governments will tell you they won’t staff it with teachers? Will there be a kitchen, and who will cook?” On and on and on.
There are so many things to take into account, aspects of a project that most companies don’t have the resources to manage. That’s why The Chain Collaborative says they team up with partners who have the ability to respond to these questions and more. They’re happy to partner for new projects in new areas, with growers that a company might already have a buying relationship with. But The Chain Collaborative also wants to stand in solidarity with existing projects, even if those projects benefit a set of coffee farmers unconnected to any company at all. œWhy? says Nora. œBecause a little bit goes a long way.
Earlier this year, Josue Aguilar Garcia Santana, a resident of the community El Coyol in Pueblo Viejo, Matagalpa, Nicaragua, solicited support from Planting Hope, an organization which works to provide educational resources to urban and rural communities in Matagalpa, Nicaragua. Santana, as Josue is commonly known, was seeking to open a new educational center in El Coyol for the many children who were not able to obtain a primacy education due to a lack of access. The nearest school in the community is one hour away for most children ”during the dry season. During the rainy season, forget it.
The Chain Collaborative began working with Planting Hope in 2014 to support their œsummer camp for children of migrant coffee pickers. This partnership gave birth to another. New Grounds Food, a partner of The Chain Collaborative, is a new company with a mission, both culinary and social. New Grounds Food makes a coffee bar that has as much caffeine as one cup of coffee, proving that you can both eat your coffee and make a difference each time you have breakfast on the go. Ali Kothari, New Grounds Food’s CFO and co-founder, says he and his business partner œstarted New Grounds Food during our freshman year in college at Northeastern University. We were always running late to our 8 a.m. financial accounting class, and never had time for breakfast or coffee. So we thought, why can’t you eat your coffee?” New Grounds Food sources their coffee certified Organic and Fair Trade from The Chain Collaborative, plus gives an additional $1 per pound for a social premium. That premium, as well as continued donations from loyal Vermont supporters, allowed Planting Hope to offer stipends this year to two volunteer teachers who managed school lessons in El Coyol.
The stipends were intended to maintain teacher and community motivation, and buy-in for the education project throughout the year until it could be recognized by the government. Planting Hope also supported the school by donating didactic materials, planting a school garden using bio-intensive methodology, and visiting the school once a week with their Mobile Library for Peace. Planting Hope was not, however, able to provide an entire school.
When the project began, Santana was teaching in the living room of a community member’s house, hoping that his efforts would be one day lead to a real school. Over the past year, community members donated their time to build an adobe schoolhouse which used bamboo as well as plastic for the roof. But it proved difficult to maintain during the rainy season. Prayers were answered when in October 2015, the mayor of the district where El Coyol is located arrived to the community with representatives of Build On, an organization that builds schools in poverty-stricken areas of Nicaragua. The community agreed to the voluntary labor that is required to build the school, working every day until the structure is complete. The Tinoco family donated the land where the school will be built, and parents, teachers, and children are all joining together to complete the work and finish the building in time for the new school year. The goal both of Build On and the community is to celebrate the inauguration of the new school on December 15, 2015, getting it ready for the beginning of classes in February 2016.
While Santana’s project supported only 21 students in small a living room when he first started, his efforts in community organizing contributed to the overall enthusiasm that was required for Build On to be able to partner with El Coyol. The school will serve many more children in the area than just the initial 21, making Santana’s reach and contribution much greater than even when it began. El Coyol hopes that next year, Planting Hope will continue to support the new school and the development of the students’ education through Mobile Library.
For The Chain Collaborative, this story confirms that a little bit goes a long way ”when you have the right partners and you stand in solidarity with everyone looking to make a difference. Co-founder and CEO Johnny Fayad said about New Grounds Food’s social mission, œDriving positive change is something we are dedicated to, and we could not be more excited about our partnership with The Chain Collaborative to do just that. Planting Hope, The Chain Collaborative, and El Coyol, feel exactly the same way.