Imagine a young girl in Mexico, named Juanita. She’s in third grade, loves school and her friends call her Juanita “Bonita” because she always tries to wear bright, flowery, colorful shirts. Her Dad thinks she God’s gift to the planet. She’s not a real person, but stay with me here.
You might not know this, but in a lot of coffee producing parts of the world, including Mexico, you have to pay to go to school. You might not know this either, but coffee farmers often don’t make a lot of money. In Dad’s case, he has a lot of kids, and his coffee trees are so old, they don’t produce as much coffee as they used to, so he has less money to go around. So you can imagine how hard it was to tell Juanita Bonita the bad news.
He takes his hat off. “M’ija, ven”. Daughter, come over here
He tells her the sad news, and of course she’s devastated.
Over time, she gets used to not being at school. Her cousins share books sometimes. She’s good at picking coffee and helping Dad. When Abuela isn’t watching her soaps on TV, she changes the channel to something where she can learn. One day this past January, right in the middle of the harvest, when Dad had so many coffee cherries to bring to the mill, she rode in the truck for two hours with some of her cousins and Dad on the bumpy road, all in the front seat. Over endless speed bumps, thru noisy little towns with locals on their bicycles weaving in and out of the road. The rosary beads swing back and forth on the rear view mirror. The truck is so old Dad has to hold onto his door handle on right hand turns so that the door doesn’t fly open and deposit him rudely in the dirt.
After he dropped off the coffee at the mill and Dad got his little ticket with the amount and type of coffee he turned in, he drove them around the block to the coop office to fill out some coop paperwork. Dad can’t read, so he gives Juanita a treat by asking her to come and help and not her cousins. She needs help out of the big truck, but as soon as her feet touch the ground, she runs into the coop office far ahead of Dad, smack into a sign in the foyer in with big letters at the top : “New Scholarships Available – Producer’s Children Only.” She’s not sure what a scholarship is – but she sees a picture of lots of kids at desks at a school, smiling. Dad’s not paying attention, he’s shaking hands with fellow coop members in the office. It takes her a little bit to get his attention, but she does finally. She has to read the announcement to him. It takes a second, but of course he realizes what this means. So when he starts smiling and picks her up and hugs her, she’s pretty sure she’ll be back in school. At a desk. Smiling.
Now, there’s no Juanita. But there is a scholarship program funded by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and the Huatusco coop that funds 80 students from over 30 communities. Along with funding for school, the program will provide the students with support for medical visits at the local clinic and host three events per year to motivate the students, involve the parents and coop board members in the program, and stress the importance of education. So please keep drinking our coffee so kids like Juanita can keep going to school.