The municipality of Santa Elena is located in the department of La Paz, which shares a border with El Salvador in western Honduras. The municipality has approximately 88 square miles and a population of 14,800. Coffee is grown between 1500 and 1800 meters above sea level.
Mayra and Lowell live in Santa Elena in the house that was originally built by Mayra’s grandparents, the same house where Mayra was born and raised. The original house has been renovated and additional buildings have been completed to host national and international visitors, and serve as an ideas incubator for youth and women.
The house has a large modern kitchen inside and a more traditional cooking space outside to support community kitchen events with quality cooking equipment.
There is also a family garden space dedicated to growing fruit, vegetables, herbs, and medicinal plants.
The long term goal is to promote food security but the short term idea is to bring people together to eat what each has grown in their own family garden. We want to inspire innovation by bringing people together in the kitchen, and then ensure that families have the mentorship, training and funding to grow what they want to eat. Eating together is also a community building opportunity that can be turned into action that will help the community thrive.
The house also has a coffee lab, small roasting operation, and future plans for a coffee shop where youth and women from the community can get training and learn to run a coffee business.
Part of the new construction has space to host an artist residency program. There is an art studio and guest rooms. The goal is to support a thriving coffee community, where art and culture play equally important roles.
Roasters are paying a little more for coffee (25 cents per pound) to help Catracha Community (a 501(1)(c)(3) nonprofit) start investing in some of the long term opportunities without taking resources from a farmer’s bottom line. In Addition to the Catracha Quality Project (CQP), Catracha Community has also been funding initiatives to support women and youth.
In 2018, Catracha Community continued the annual tradition of hosting (the 4th annual) a youth conference, this time with a focus on training young people to be entrepreneurs and design a business concept for Santa Elena. At the end of the conference groups pitched their business ideas to a group of judges who posed questions and gave feedback.
Catracha Community is currently funding weekly craft and cooking workshops to help women and youth accomplish their business ideas. Women and teens have been cooking up a storm, learning new recipes from volunteer chefs and then selling what they make in the community. There is even a group of young women making keychains that are being sold in the United States and Europe.
Another group of women are making bunnies out or recycled material thanks to a collaboration with the Bunnymission.org, which are also being sold in the United States and Europe.
There is also a farmers market each Sunday in front of the house in Santa Elena where the women and youth are selling crafts, food and vegetables.
Several artist have also come to stay in the art residence and work in the community. A number of public murals have been painted in Santa Elena and at schools throughout the municipality. Artists are also providing weekly workshops to teach art to children in Santa Elena.
School gardening projects started throughout Santa Elena thanks to a generous donation of seed from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds Company.
Catracha Community also hosted a group of veterinarians that vaccinated and spayed dogs in the community.
Several tree nurseries are also up and running thanks to funding support from Arbor Day Foundation.
Catracha Community is also sponsoring field trips. Several trips have taken young people from Santa Elena to other parts of Honduras like Gracias, Lempira and Tegucigalpa to see how other businesses work and get inspired by all the positive people and natural beauty Honduras has to offer.
Women from Santa Elena even ventured to the beach in El Salvador to reward themselves and get inspired to dream big.
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