Islanders brew up aid for Nicaragua

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SUBMITTED BY OGIFA

This festive season promises to be a more subdued, quiet affair. But we can still get together with loved ones over a cup of coffee, either on Zoom or with thermoses on outdoor walks. And, perhaps most importantly, we can still spread peace and goodwill to our friends around the world.  

Everyone is experiencing unprecedented challenges, but this December is going to be an especially difficult time for folks on Ometepe Island in Nicaragua. Two hurricanes, less than two weeks apart, tore through the Central American country this fall, causing significant mudslides, widespread flooding and crop damage. 

For more than 30 years, the Ometepe Gulf Islands Friendship Society (OGIFA) has sustained a partnership with the small island community, located on Lake Nicaragua. By purchasing and re-selling coffee, both as beans, for sale in stores around the island, and as brewed coffee at the Saturday Market and various island events, we’ve been able to send $25,000 to $30,000 per year back to support people in Nicaragua. Islander contributions have funded programs such as micro-lending, education, scholarships, youth support programs, first-aid clinics and clean-burning cookstoves. 

Now, in the wake of hurricanes Iota and Eta, we are needed more than ever. 

Ometepe coffee volunteers were not able to serve coffee as usual at the Saturday Market this year, and the organization currently has a surplus of coffee, which is stored in special facilities by Serious Coffee in Duncan. The beans are roasted in small batches for maximum freshness and flavour. 

“If we can sell what we have on hand, it will allow us to send much-needed funding to projects in Nicaragua, and resume buying from Ometepe farmers,” said OGIFA volunteer Nedjo Rogers. “Our organic farming friends are managing as best they can, but the situation right now is overwhelming. The resilience and adaptability of organic farmers is legend, but coffee producers on the small Nicaraguan island are facing crop damage on top of interruptions to the global coffee trade.” 

Salt Spring Islanders can help. For everyone accustomed to grabbing a cup of coffee at the Ometepe Saturday market stand, OGIFA is encouraging them to grab a pound or two of Ometepe Coffee from a local shop or online. From now until the end of December, colourful coffee bags will be adorned with a festive sticker inspired by the ancient petroglyphs of Ometepe Island. 

People can also donate to OGIFA by e-transfer to johnmoore@shaw.ca.

Anyone interested in helping in the future can join OGIFA. Membership chair Marlene Rice at mricessi@icloud.com is the person to contact for an application. Benefits include being kept up to date on the state of the coffee farmers and, notably, the purchase of coffee at wholesale prices. 

When times are tough, giving back really can restore hope. The volunteers at OGIFA are inviting everyone to “come for coffee” this holiday season. With travel restricted and a pandemic raging, keeping international friendships alive is more important than ever. Holiday edition Ometepe coffee is available at Country Grocer, Salt Spring Mercantile, Natureworks and Global Village in Victoria at Hillside Mall. 

It can also be ordered via email and shipped by contacting gilliancampbell@shaw.ca for all the details.

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