Last summer, at World of Coffee, we met Maria Renée Morales, Manager of Volcafe Guatemala she is single-handedly responsible for the remarkable growth with La Morena Producers. This was our second year of partnership with La Morena, a coffee produced exclusively by female farmers in Guatemala's Huehuetenango region. We wanted to make a tangible difference on the ground, so when we asked Maria how we contribute to the local community, her reply to us was simple, one word: "teeth."Dental care, particularly, poses a significant challenge for rural Guatemalan communities. Many individuals cannot afford dental visits, resulting in irregular check-ups. Annual dental visits are not the norm in Guatemala. The consequences of poor oral health extend to the point where individuals struggle to eat properly, leading to malnutrition, especially among children.
Enter "Sonrisas," meaning "smiles," a dental initiative that emerged from our conversation with Maria. We donated €5000; Volcafe UK & Ireland matched our contribution. Volcafe Guatemala also transformed a disused public bus into a mobile dental clinic which is now serving as a hygienic treatment centre. This innovative project focuses on families involved with La Morena women's coffee groups.
In 2023, over a four-week period, 3,800 coffee producers and their families received vital medical and dental care. Clinics were held in - Baja Verapaz, Amatitlan, Huehuetenango City, and La Democracia.
In essence, we're doing what feels right, asking how and where we can make a real difference. As we look ahead into 2024, the goal is to expand this project to more families, believing in the simple yet powerful idea that genuine change starts with kindness, one smile at a time.