This morning we left right away for our long journey to El Porvenir, a community of 51 families that live on top of a mountain and work for a coffee cooperation. After about a 3 hour drive almost all of us piled into a tractor trailer for an hour ride up the mountain. We passed a few small homes and many beautiful views on the way up. Cassie, the doctor working with JHC, traveled up with us to visit the families who receive medical treatment when doctors travel up the mountain.
It was incredibly interesting to learn about how the community has established their own sustainable living so isolated from the main cities of Nicaragua. Unfortunately, the director of the cooperation mentioned how they were potentially looking to sell because they have had so much trouble exporting in the past few years due to the size of the coffee grain which was saddening to hear. He explained how because of the middle man system, that they are working away from, they are not receiving sufficient funds for the amount of intensive physical work to create the product. They also have their own processing plant which is rare. The machine was built in 1920 and still works in its original form.
On the way down the mountain a group of us wanted to walk to see if we could beat the tractor. It was a rough hike but we succeeded!
One thing that I appreciated when we were in El Porvernir was how much compassion the community had for one another. It was very encouraging. Despite the poverty and the problems that they face each day in order to survive they continue to love and take care of each other. In my opinion this should be a lesson to all of us.
After visiting El Porvenir we had dinner in Leon where I got an opportunity to meet some of the people who were in charge of the Tolelo Community which is about 15 km from Leon. We had brought computers with us which were donated to the school in this community. As I spoke to one of the ladies involved I could see infinite passion in her eyes as she was talking about her job as a teacher in her community. The computers that were donated are usually used as incentive for high school students to work hard and be able to go to collegeThe student who gets the best score two successive semester is awarded the computer. I asked her what the student usually study at the university; she said it includes language and literature, lab technology, science and mathematics. She emphasized the difficulty of getting the right education and how most students in her community who want to go to school cannot afford to. As the night came to an end I asked her what her biggest dream was and she replied that she would like everyone in her community to be educated and to have a better environment. Speaking to her made realize once more what a privilege I have to be educated.
It is amazing how sometimes it takes traveling to a completely new country to teach you how to appreciate your homeland. Growing up in Rwanda, there are certain things that I never paid attention to that I have grown to appreciate since coming to Nicaragua. I was able to appreciate how much work is put into the coffee plantations at home just by listening to the people from El Porvenir. The difficulties facing the Nicaraguan coffee cooperative were similar to the ones I would hear about from Rwandan coffee farmers, but it became more real just by being here in Nicaragua. The history, the culture, and the people make me nostalgic; but also serve as reminder to reflect upon myself and realize that I really have no justification for complaining about anything.
My country is not rich and has had a pretty rough past, but in the past 23 years we have made a lot of progress; I wish the same for the people of Nicaragua. Coming here I expected to see a people who suffered a lot yet persevered and my exceptions were met. I have had a chance to have meaningful conversations with one the workers at the Nueva Vida clinic that we work at, and learned a lot. In the midst of working, the workers and I sang Nicaraguan and Rwandan songs. Nicaragua has been a home far from home and I am convinced that there is a bright future ahead for Nicaragua. I hope the world can see the people of Nicaragua and learn to value each other a little more.
Privilege comes in many shapes, sizes, and colors that we may not know exist. Seeing how hard this community works to produce coffee to make a living made me appreciate everything I have so much more. I’m not a big coffee person and if you ask me would I rather coffee or tea I would proudly say tea but today made me want to drink coffee so I can support hard workers like the ones we met today. Seeing how happy they are to do what they do, really made me think about my future plans once I graduate. Once I graduate I want to be as happy as the Nicaraguans I met today with whatever I decide to do. Talking to Luis, our bus driver, he said something that I will never forget, “Wisdom is more powerful than wealth”. Coming on trip I seen this in action in so many ways that it would take me forever to list. Often time its easy to seek financial wealth for happiness but here in Nicaragua financial wealth is not something many people will be able to get but they are way wiser than many people I have met. After that conversation I was reevaluating myself, and I realized that I would rather be wise and happy than financially wealthy and unhappy.