Coffee and bricks

Freddy stepped out into the morning mountain air,#sean nica dispatch2 his body cutting through the dampness. He paused for a moment, took a breath, and smiled. When the moment passed he got to work. He moved dirt, lovingly tending his coffee crop.

Most of the world lay quiet. It was early still, but Freddy worked.  Fueled by his  product, his pride, and his desire for success, he was wiping sweat from his brow before most eyes had opened.

Freddy worked. Circumstances were not fair. The world had been cruel. He lived in a place where competitors told lies and con-men stole. It was a world that valued cheap over quality, quick over careful, synthetic over natural.  But still, he worked.

Today, Freddy grows what might be the best coffee in Nicaragua.  For a long time, he did not get a penny for it.  But day by day he worked. He arrived. He got to a place where his coffee could be shared, his family could be secure, and his kids could go to school.

As part of a cooperative with eleven other farmers, Freddy’s coffee now can be bought anywhere in the United States through Ocotal Coffee, a small online business started by Sean Johnson, a young entrepreneur.

#sean nica dispatch 1


But wait. There is more to this story.

At the base of Freddy’s mountain sits a village.  El Sauce it is called. It is small and genuine; its people kind and hardworking. Life in El Sauce is simple and, for too many families, difficult.  On its outskirts are makeshift shelters of cardboard and plastic.  They house mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, uncles and grandmothers. The rainy season is when it is hardest to stay dry and stay healthy.

For the next 30 days, the coffee grown in those mountains will help build houses in that village. Ocotal Coffee is collaborating with the 4Walls Project, a Rochester NY organization that has been building sturdy brick houses for poor people in El Sauce since 2007. For the next 30 days every bag of Ocotal Coffee sold will provide 20 bricks for a family’s new home.


To be part of the solution to a better life for Nicaraguan families, go to and check out with the fundraising code “4walls.”

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