In 1992 a delegation from Pittsburgh traveled to El Salvador, a country that was struggling in the aftermath of a brutal civil war that cost tens of thousands of lives and devastated the tiny nation’s economy. The delegation helped a group of repatriated refugees to construct a community named Nueva Esperanza, or “New Hope.” We helped to build a bakery, a cattle crossing and – most importantly – an enduring partnership with our new Salvadoran friends. The community’s spirit of resilience and cooperation inspired our name, Building New Hope.
We returned to Nueva Esperanza the following year and assisted with the installation of a solar-powered water filtration system that dramatically reduced the risk posed by water-borne illnesses. In order to ensure that the community would be self-reliant, we arranged for a student from the community to study solar energy in Colorado.
Building New Hope also purchased a school bus and filled it with school supplies before shipping it to El Salvador where it transported children from remote communities to Nueva Esperanza’s high school.
In the 1990’s one disaster followed another: Nueva Esperanza faced bank debt and the threat of losing their land; Hurricane Mitch devastated wide swaths of Central America; and a series of deadly earthquakes rocked El Salvador. Working with other Pittsburgh-based organizations, Building New Hope raised thousands of dollars for both emergency relief and long-term reconstruction in El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua.
Once back on their feet, the people of Nueva Esperanza urged us to support other Central American communities. In 1998, we initiated our first long-term projects in Nicaragua when Donna Tabor settled there as a full-time BNH volunteer. Under Donna’s creative guidance, BNH developed arts, education and skills training programs for young children and at-risk youth.
In the late 1990s, a severe drop in international coffee prices left Central American farmers without incomes. Many lost land and their children endured hunger and malnutrition. In 2002, Building New Hope responded by importing 30,000 pounds of organic coffee from El Porvenir, a worker-owned coffee cooperative in Nicaragua. Since then, we have worked closely with local business, schools and faith-based organizations to market El Porvenir coffee according to the principles of Fair Trade. We continue to work to raise awareness about the importance of trade built on partnerships and equity. From its origins in El Salvador to its present work in Nicaragua, Building New Hope has successfully promoted a flexible, community-to-community approach to development based a vision of “globalization” that puts people before profits.