Miguel dry milling a coffee sample after school

Miguel dry milling a coffee sample after school

Miguel is a close friend and one of the farm employees. He started collaborating with me as an eco-tourism mountain guide. He is a gentle soul with a big heart. Miguel, 27, only had a few years of school when I was leaving Peace Corps in ’05; he couldn’t even sign his own name. When Miguel told me he wanted to study so he could have a better life and a family, I offered verbal support, but wondered if he would be able to realize his dream is such a remote region with few education opportunities. Almost three years later, Miguel passed the national exam for 8th grade and wants to get his high school diploma. Thanks to the Dioceses of Orlando’s education program he was able to pack eight years of study into two. The school is located in La Cucarita, which meant Miguel was walking three plus miles every day for 4 hours of class.

I told Miguel that I would personally cover education costs for him as needed. In agricultural communities, young men like Miguel have few opportunities, so I didn’t want his poor family to have to support his education.

As part of the gear drive, I also asked for financial support towards the Education Fund in an email to family and friends. We raised $265 dollars towards the education of the farm workers. In November, I gave the majority of the fund to Antonio to cover education costs for his nine children and the rest to Miguel because he has started high-school. Eight of Antonio’s nine kids are in school. Only the youngest, who is two years old, is not in school. Large families are common in agricultural communities by necessity. The kids all have their chores: looking for fire wood, running errands, caring for siblings, helping carry water, and of course helping dad on the farm. All of Antonio’s kids are healthy happy and learning. They also know the names of all the trees, how to build a fire, harvest many crops and much more. Don’t look at his kids as child labor; they just have different chores.

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