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The coffee yield from El Porvenir coffee cooperative in Nicaragua has been less than usual the past two years due to the damaging effects of several hurricanes. That's bad for the growers, and it's also bad for Building New Hope, the Pittsburgh-based nonprofit agency that sells the coffee from here to fund its humanitarian projects in Central America.
To make up for the shortage, Building New Hope is raffling off a trip for two to the colonial city of Granada, Nicaragua. Winners will get plane tickets, six nights at a bed and breakfast, and escorted tours by the organization's volunteers.
The group is selling 200 tickets, at $100 each, so that purchasers stand a better chance of winning. The drawing will take place Friday at Amani International Coffee House and Cafe, 507 Foreland St., North Side, from 6 to 8 p.m. Tickets are still available at www.buildingnewhope.org or 412-421-1625.
Proceeds will fund Building New Hope's projects in El Salvador and in Nicaragua, where the bulk of the programs are located.
"It amazes me how a small group of people can make such a huge difference," said Sara Cuadra Berg, a native Nicaraguan who lives in Fox Chapel and serves on the board of Building New Hope.
"The things Donna is doing in Granada are incredible."
That would be Donna Tabor, the ex-Pittsburgher and former Peace Corps worker who has lived in Granada for more than a decade. Many of her projects are funded by Building New Hope.
It was Ms. Tabor who dreamed up Cafe Chavalos (Kids Cafe), a culinary school for former gang members that became a popular eating spot for tourists and locals alike. The cafe is in transition -- Building New Hope bought a restaurant to house an expanded program and volunteers are refurbishing the place. Unfortunately, the purchase coincided with the coffee downturn. Hence, the raffle.
"It's the first piece of property we ever purchased, so this was a big step for us," said Barbara Wein, director of Building New Hope. "But with coffee production so low, we're in a little bit of a financial bind."
The group ran out of coffee in January, she said. Another shipment was supposed to come in February, but it still hasn't arrived.
"Right now it's in Charleston [S.C.], so it should be here any day," she said.
Ms. Wein co-founded Building New Hope in 1992 to help refugees from El Salvador's civil war go home and rebuild. Since then, the group has funded an array of projects there and in Nicaragua, including small businesses, a women's center offering job training and medical care, learning centers for barrio kids, Spanish-language children's books for elementary schools, a veterinary clinic, and, during Hurricane Mitch in 1998, emergency food and medicine.
Locally, though, the group is best known for the shade-grown organic coffee from El Porvenir, a cooperative of 48 families. Building New Hope buys the beans at fair-trade prices. The beans are fresh roasted in Pittsburgh by LaPrima Espresso Co., then packed and shipped by volunteers to the tune of 15,000 pounds a year.
The coffee is sold at Whole Foods, East End Food Co-op, Giant Eagle in Waterworks Mall and Giant Eagle Marketplace in Shadyside, as well as independent coffeehouses, restaurants and bakeries. Schools and churches also sell it for their own fund-raising projects.
Another fund-raising tool just fell into the organization's lap -- an illustrated children's book written and published by Dr. Jim Hardiman, a physician from Florida who has worked on medical missions all over the world. The book, "Rootie Kazoo and the Final Pitch," is dedicated to the author's son and to Ms. Tabor, and all proceeds go to the educational projects of Building New Hope. The book will be on sale at Friday's raffle for $12.
First Published May 8, 2007 11:33 am