While we're excited to bring you fresh coffee out of Nicaragua (on sale here), we’re also saddened by what’s currently going on in the Central American country.
If you’re not up to speed, a political crisis was sparked on April 18 when pro-government forces violently crushed a small demonstration against announced social security changes that would raise workers’ contributions and cut pensions for retirees.
“As students marched in the capital, Managua, and in provincial towns, armed paramilitary groups known as ‘shock forces’ or ‘mobs’ began attacking protesters,” reported The New York Times, summarizing a United Nations report. “The police, using live ammunition and snipers, shot demonstrators, some fatally ..."
The protest was the latest opposition to Daniel Ortega’s presidency, described by many as a dictatorship.
Unfortunately, the violence has continued. Following an investigation, the U.N. reported that Nicaraguan authorities have killed, tortured and raped protesters, and estimates say that more than 300 people have been killed and 2,000 more have been injured in the government crackdowns. In one particularly chilling example, attacks by pro-government gangs during Mother’s Day marches —which were held in support of mothers whose children had been killed in protests — killed 15 people and injured nearly 200 more.
As a result of such political unrest, daily life has, for many, particularly in urban areas, been disrupted. Teachers and children, for example, have had to miss school because public transportation has been halted due to road blocks and fuel shortages. Many Nicaraguans have been forced into hiding or have fled the country altogether, most of which have gone south to Costa Rica.
Sales of our Nicaraguan coffee from the 2017 crop supported a mobile library operated by Planting Hope, an NGO working to improve education in the northern part of the country. The mobile library is a bus (check it out!) that visits under-resourced schools to improve students’ literacy, math and science skills, and this year, our support sent Planting Hope's most trained tutor to five different schools over the course of four months to reach 240 kids in all.
Unfortunately, because of travel warnings in Nicaragua, Planting Hope won’t be hosting any cultural exchange and volunteer trips in 2019, and those trips provide the revenue for 70 percent of the NGO’s operating expenses. Additionally, it has become increasingly unsafe for Nicaraguans themselves to travel in their own country. As a result, the organization is scaling back the extent of its mobile library program but will continue to staff is standing library in Matagalpa, which is the organizational hub.
Connect, in turn, is redirecting its support toward this library. Named the La Chispa (“The Spark”) after the neighborhood in the city of Matagalpa, the two-story library offers book loans, computer classes, art classes, dance classes, tai-kwon do and reading groups. It serves more than 1,800 students at five local schools, none of which have its own library. Planting Hope’s staff regularly visits these schools to introduce the library’s services, attends to students visiting the library and provides scholarships to students who want to supplement their studies or learn job skills through an internship.
While not in a coffee-growing community itself, many people in La Chispa work in Matagalpa’s dry mills processing coffee that is delivered by producers. “All of Nicaragua,” says Mercedes Guerrero Arista, the Country Director for Planting Hope, “depends on coffee.”
Arista said that Planting Hope will focus on spending time with children in an effort to support families in the midst of uncertain times.
“There is no harm,” she said, “from which some good does not come.”
We, too, are hoping to see some good come soon.