By Tess Berghoff
In the midst of anguish and poverty in Central America, specifically in Nicaragua and El Salvador, many of us wonder how we can help and practice solidarity with these people. Santa Clara University offered me that opportunity in the spring of 2016, when I spent a week in Nicaragua working with children relocated from the unhealthy conditions in El Limonal to Villa Catalina. Unfortunately, there is limited space in Villa Catalina, so many families still live in temporary shacks in El Limonal, where a garbage dump was cleared in 1998 after Hurricane Mitch. Twenty years later, many people still live there in extreme poverty and suffer the consequences of severe asthma due to the nearby burning garbage — when they’re not sifting through it for food scraps or things to sell.
After the hurricane, many people from Nicaragua and other countries impacted took refuge in the United States. Twenty-five hundred Nicaraguans have been living here with Temporary Protected Status for almost twenty years, yet the Trump administration recently announced that they are putting an end to the immigration protection of Nicaraguans, giving them only fourteen months to evacuate. They are now forced to leave their homes in the states and return to a place where they have nothing.
Another country going through extreme hardship is El Salvador. The twelve-year civil war in the 1980s left 35% of El Salvadorans in poverty and roughly 60,000 young people in gangs: the leading cause of violence in the country. SCU’s Casa study abroad program and the Ignatian Center immersion to San Salvador have both been cancelled due to the violence in El Salvador. But what about the people that live there and face this violence daily? What about the countless people suffering from extreme poverty?
I am saddened by the violence and suffering and am moved to help. It dawned on me how easy it would be to just drink Fair Trade coffee, which helps sustainable farming in countries like El Salvador and Nicaragua. Most students and people I know drink coffee on a regular basis to sustain our busy lives, and simply changing the beans we purchase could make a substantial impact on the lives of others. Although it may be small, spending a few more dollars on coffee might also help us with the overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and helplessness that often come when we can’t offer direct service to those whose lives are so much harder than ours.
Please consider visiting this website to buy Fair Trade coffee. The following link is just one of the fair trade coffee sites I found. It contains information on the countries where the coffee comes from and ways to purchase it directly: https://shop.equalexchange.coop/