Planting Hope is a small NGO founded in 2001 by Beth Merrill of Montpelier, Vermont. While on a college internship in Nicaragua, she was asked to teach in a local school while a teacher was on maternity leave. Through this experience, she made deep connections with the families in the La Chispa neighborhood of Matagalpa, Nicaragua, a city in the central, coffee-growing mountains of the country. Several years later, she had the opportunity to return and asked members of the community what they needed. The reply was a library. Beth returned to Vermont, raised the money, and built a library for them. Planting Hope was born Since then we have grown in leaps and bounds creating partnerships both here and in Nicaragua.
Planting Hope is led by volunteer board of directors, which oversees the strategic development and general operation of the organization. In 2005, Planting Hope arranged its first delegation of Vermonters, who traveled to Nicaragua and took part in several service activities. In addition, Planting Hope fosters cultural exchange between the two countries bringing brigades of multi-age Americans and university students to the area to provide service work and learn about the region. In reverse, the organization has brought Nicaraguan students to the U.S. to learn and share. In 2013 nearly 80 adults and students traveled in Planting Hope delegations including groups from the North Branch Nature Center, Stowe High School, The University of New Mexico as well as two delegations of local high school students from Montpelier High School, U-32 Senior and Junior High School, and Harwood Union who traveled with Planting Hope staff and volunteers.
Planting Hope operates a dozen different programs, both in the United States and Nicaragua many at La Chispa Library, which offers classes in English, computer, and art, as well as after-school homework support, and an Internet cafe. Through its growth, Planting Hope expanded to other communities, mostly in and around the municipal town of San Ramon. We have assisted with constructing and staffing rural preschools, and building spaces for a women’s weaving cooperative, a library and computer classes, and a Re-Use store and Internet café.
Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and Brewing a Better World have been generous supporters of Planting Hope’s programs, most notably the Coffee Camps, which began in 2010 and provide day-care, educational activities, healthy meals, and health and dental checks to young children previously left behind to care for themselves when their parents picked coffee all day during the harvest season.
In 2012 Planting Hope purchased a bus to run a mobile library, which brings books to rural communities and their schools. Planting Hope employs close to 50 Nicaraguans to carry out these many programs and the number continues to grow with each new initiative. In comparison, it currently employs just one half-time executive director and half-time director of operations here in the U.S.