January 2008 was my first visit to Honduras. I had never left the States before, let alone traveled to Central America. I was immediately awakened by smells of homemade tortillas, diesel engines and burning sugar cane.
As soon as I got off the plane, I took a two hour journey to reach Nuevo Paríso where I would stay for the week. “Nuevo”, for short, is a tiny village of 60 homes and is one of six projects run by Sr. Maria Rosa Leggol, SSSF. Sister’s program, Sociedad Amigos de los Niños, provides housing, education and medical attention to Honduran children who are victims of poverty and neglect. At Nuevo, I would open my heart and mind to the country, the struggles and the people of Honduras.
As I tried to settle into my little bunk at night, a series of images, smells and sounds flooded my head. I wondered what I would see, who I would meet and how this experience would impact me.
At dawn the next morning I began my first adventure. We wound our way into a tiny village, combating muddy roads, twists and turns, and the occasional ox that got in the way. When we arrived in the village of Hoya Grande, students quickly assembled tables and organized the villagers waiting for medical care. I assisted where I could, but my eyes wondered across the way to a stark white sign that read “CORAH”. When I looked beyond the sign, I saw a villager tending to a large greenhouse and moving large sacks of coffee. A smaller group of us decided to approach the villager and ask about his work.
His name is Fausto Padilla, a native Honduran who has been working on the CORAH coffee cooperative since it started in 2001 with the help of Zamorano University and the Peace Corps. Fausto explained his struggles with crops, the fluctuating price of coffee and with the coyotes who exploit coffee producers like himself by paying minimal prices for green coffee beans. As a group, we were impressed by Fausto’s hard work and determination to maintain the organic coffee cooperative. We left for the day but Fausto’s story never left us.
At the end of the night we gathered with the children of Nuevo Paríso at mass for celebration of the Epiphany. The little chapel was decorated with leftover Christmas tinsel and garland. A baby Jesus figurine rested in the wood carved manger. And in between the Amens and the Gloria, I experienced my own epiphany. I was not exactly sure what it was but I felt a calling to be a part of Sister’s work.
Two years later, I now have clearer insight into my epiphany. Thanks to the collaboration and coordination that has taken place, the Sister Maria Rosa Coffee Company has been formed. We import Fausto’s coffee from Honduras and sell it to local schools and parishes. All profits are donated back to Sister’s program, Sociedad Amigos de los Niños. As president, I oversee the daily operations, yet in my heart I have such a deeper and more profound feeling. Working on this project, I see how at each level we are helping “grow goodness”. From the coffee workers to the parishes that buy our coffee, we commit ourselves to grow goodness individually, locally and globally. From my trip in 2008 to today, this is my mission and I am thrilled to live it out.
Submitted by: Kate Novotny, short-term missioner to Honduras with Marquette University