Hear Our Voice

The Congregation Shma Koleinu Blog.

Good to the Last Drop

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Tikkun Olam in NicaraguaWell, today, day 4 was perhaps our most profoundly important day of all. Caveat – no, I did not fully comprehend how much time we wouldn’t be spending actually “working” here. And I know that is true for my fellow travelers as well. But what we have been doing has exhausted even the most experienced travelers among us. Today, we departed Jubilee House Community for El Porvenir Coffee Plantation, close to a three-hour van ride followed by a 50 minute, 6K tractor pulled trailer ride up a (at times) 45-degree stone/dirt hill.View of the Path Up


The El Porvenir Coffee Plantation has been in existence since the 1920’s. However, during the 1979 revolution in Nicaragua, the owner left the country and handed over the deed to the 30 men who had been working there for years. These men transferred the deed to their name as a cooperative and they and their families have ever since been living, working and cooperating to build their business. Now this is no intro to a great Hollywood version of “start up goes public and makes millions.” No, this is more like a “start up stays private and after 35+ years, is truly proud to have been able to install a water pump that delivers water to the top of the mountain instead of having to rely on donkeys and tractors. Oh, and they have one solar powered light bulb to share. You read that right, one. They will also, as they did today, boast of their first generation born at the plantation who have since gone to college and have now returned to help grow their home community.   This may have something to do with their government funded, college-educated teachers for primary and secondary school!

Thanks to some wonderful timing and persistence, JHC became involved with El Porvenir and has since served as their partner in many ventures, including helping them find a stateside distributor for their coffee. “Theirbucks” is the name of this venture. “Theirbucks” is funded and managed by a non-profit in N Carolina that seeks to grow El Porvenir’s profit margin. This is especially challenging due to their limited crop size (due to arable land), their grand total of $42K budget (that is THE TOTAL amount spent on the 50 families who live there to run the business and pay for their lives). Think Kibbutz, 1948 on steroids!

We had the privilege of meeting “Mike,” their spokesmen who greeted us, shared with us their story and also provided an update on the latest challenges they face – effects of climate change and global warming. Rain patterns here just as everywhere else on the globe have created challenges to crop growth, cultivation and ultimately distribution. In their case, the coffee beans which we learned must be picked by hand and only when they are perfectly ready to be picked (but not too ready because then they will fall onto the ground and get lost, eaten or simply ruined in the soil), roasted the same day they are picked, all of which done with great care not to pull off the small sprouting buds which will become next year’s crop.

Lunch was of course home made and delicious, made in Mike and his wife’s stone home, with only the light of day streaming through a minimum of windows. We used the outhouse when necessary, that strangely maintained no smell rising up from the deep hole in the ground over which its “stone throne” sat. We were permitted to tour the village, see their homes, and meet the children. By any Western standards, this is poverty, pure and simple. But I just can’t say that they were poor – at all. Again, I’m not starry eyed or romantic when I say this – its just a completely different reality.

They do yearn for more, they do want better for their children than they have for themselves. But there is something different about a country so early in its journey as free people, who have decided, albeit for idealism or pragmatism, a shared existence is better for the individual.

That’s all for now.

Peace out,

Rabbi Scott

PS Sorry this was posted only as of this afternoon but when you’re trying to repair the world, it seems that time is more of a scarcity than we truly are used to. And JHC has us moving. As of this post, ¾ of the group led hand washing education clinics for the preschoolers and sex education for the 7th graders at a local school while the rest of us returned to the clinic to repair bikes and wheelchairs.


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