In early October 2005 a Tropical depression was given the name Stan. While Stan never crept beyond a Category 1 hurricane, the rain it brought to Guatemala was devastating beyond belief. By October 11, 2005 at least 1,500 people were conﬁrmed to have died, and up to 3,000 were believed missing. Many communities were overwhelmed, and the worst single incident appears to have occurred in Panabaj, an impoverished Maya village in the highlands near Lake Atitlán in Sololá department. This volcanic lake was so overwhelmed by the torrential rains that many of the small, Mayan villages covering the shores experienced landslides from above. Some of the towns were so overwhelmed by the slides that the mayor has declared them graveyards, and all people who are missing are counted as dead.
Just over the volcanos heading toward the Paciﬁc Ocean another village experienced great loss. The main bridge that carried cars from the small village of San Juan Moca to and from civilization was carried away by the torrential rains. With the destruction of the bridge all hopes of advancement in education and occupation were lost. In the years that have followed the people of San Juan Moca have regressed as they have become more and more isolated.
When we began discovering coffee farmers in Central America who were actively serving the people of their country by bringing them relief, we were introduced to Irving Navichoc of the Lake Atitlan region of Guatemala. After spending time with Irving and his father Pedro we began to understand their heart for bringing relief to the poorest and most desperate of Guatemala. They speciﬁcally identiﬁed San Juan Moca as a place they wanted to invest their time, love, and resources. Over the last two years we have taken teams into San Juan Moca on several occasions teaching english to the children and helping build houses for widows and their children.
One of our core values at The Phoenix Roasters is to create value in the people with whom we come in contact. For us that means we have to consider the impact of “doing good” in the countries we do business. It is not unusual for Americans teams to go into emerging countries with good intentions, but leave the people they came to serve in worse condition than when they arrived. One way this happens is when this good intention only brings charity. As team after team and group after group show up and give people stuff at no cost or investment to them, they begin to slowly lose dignity as they begin to see others charity as long term income. Recognizing this, we have committed to Irving and Pedro to bring work rather than charity. We have made the admission that we really don’t have the skilled labor force to be quality contractors, and even if we do have someone with us with this ability there are people in the village that can and will do this work with us for a fair day’s wage.
Phoenix Roasters along with the vision and love of the Navichoc’s now employ 12 people of San Juan Moca every time we take a team in. This is no insigniﬁcant employment either. By helping build a house and by teaching children english we are able to pay these women and men 1/10 of their annual salary for one week’s work! Work creates margin for people to share generously which fuels a cycle of relief allowing others to do the same. We know this is building a bridge for dignity as people begin to take ownership of their town, their widows, and their children. To think this global cycle of relief started with drinking great coffee!
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