A few years ago I did a self-planned internship in Guatemala at a fair trade coffee plantation in the Western Highlands to learn about coffee growing and write my thesis on Fair Trade certification for my undergrad in Global Studies. In a little town called Columba, down a long, windy, dirt road, I found myself in a community called Santa Anita where 36 families made their living growing and selling coffee. They all lived in concrete houses with tin roofs, cooking over an open fire, and siting on the dirt floor. Since it was not harvest season, many men were looking for temporary work in bigger cities.
Jump forward three years, and I find myself trying to help those same farmers raise their quality of life, stay with their families, and give their children more opportunities. From the Ground Up is a not-for-profit organization that connects coffee growing communities to micro loans, assists in increasing the value of their product, and executes sustainable community projects for diversification.
We want to help the farmers, not create jobs for ourselves. That is why we are all unpaid. Yes, ALL volunteers. To us, sustainable development doesn't mean dependence on foreign organizations. We plan to lead coffee growers to opportunities, not hand-outs. That is the plan. PLEASE help us further our mission by sharing YOUR advice, experience, suggestions with us.