In 2006 I decided to change my life entirely, a drastic change in my personal circumstances made me look at what had been my priorities and I wanted to change things, make it less about work and money and see what else there was to actual living. I had no dependants, my family were supportive and so I pinned a metaphorical tail in the donkey and decided on Nicaragua, a smallish Central American country I knew virtually nothing about. The plan was to go and teach the guides English for a year and do my little bit to make their sustainable tourism function a little better. I had no idea where it would take me, just that it would be somewhere else and I would let life decide the rest.
I spent a year in Central America and teaching was definitely a part of it, but I was also introduced to a hunger the kids had for learning, secondary school places were something the parents saved up for, university was a dream, the coffee plants didn't just provide a backdrop to the children walking to school, they also provided a financial way forward for the further education of the younger generation in these communities. My initial attempt at the business was to pack a rucksack full of bags of the community grown coffee and take it to various places on the west coast selling it to various hostels and restaurants. I loved it, loved seeing how it made a difference to the women who were making money directly from their efforts of hand roasting, grinding and packing their own product. On one of these trips I was nicknamed 'The Coffee Fairy'. It stuck, even then I thought it was a great name for a business because I really wanted to do this on a bigger scale, I wanted to take this coffee and the story of how it was grown and picked and transported to a wider audience. The coffee was exceptional, that was part of the reason, but it was the pride they felt in growing such a quality product as well as the work involved in creating something which so many of us really have no idea of the amount of work needed to make sure you have the best cup of coffee available. I spent a long time talking to those farmers persuading them to sell to me and we even came up with a plan on how funds could be raised to help out their schools and improve the educational resources in their communities and for their children.
That was back in 2007, since then the company has worked hard to raise the funds promised to the farmers, we have built schools and classrooms, raised the profile of Nicaraguan coffee and supplemented and provided secondary school and university bursaries. Along the way we have had help from so many wonderful volunteers who have done so much through raising money, wielding a paintbrush or even teaching the kids at the schools. There have been investments, some good, some bad, and some who expected me to walk away from something I have put my heart and soul into while they turned it into something it isn't. As a result of the good and despite the bad we are still here, making this work, supplying hotels, delis and farm shops across the country, the coffee is available in some of the biggest retail outlets in the UK and there is plenty more coming up.
On a personal note I have come through a fairly harrowing 12 months recovering from breast cancer, while I was ill I had a whole load of coffee farming communities in northern Nicaragua praying for me to get well as soon as possible. I am really looking forward to seeing them all again and thanking them. We aren't done yet...