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Habitat For Humanity: El Salvador 2013

JJ Bean Habitat For Humanity 2013 Trip Group Shot Team JJ (Left-Right): Nevada, Laura, Wayne, Maria, Jack, Hollie

It all began with a deep desire to give back. To be able to make a direct impact to the countries that work so hard for us as a company, and that provide us with our careers, is a remarkable opportunity.

Over the past seven years, JJ Bean has sent employees along with managers, the owner John Neate (JJ), and master roaster David Long on Habitat for Humanity trips to countries of coffee origins. We’ve always wanted to give back directly to coffee growing regions, and this is our way of doing it. Helping to build safe, affordable homes where kids can have a bed to sleep, parents can have a place to cook, and, above all, putting a roof over the heads of these families.

We have built five homes in seven years. The impact it has made on these families is enormous. They welcome us with open arms and say goodbye with tears in their eyes. These trips not only support the families and their communities, but it impacts us as well. To be able to learn and grow from another country that has next to nothing is an experience of a life time. We come back stronger and more grateful every time.

We also have a rare and amazing opportunity to visit coffee farms and plantations at the end of our Habitat build. Not only do we get the privilege to give back to the country, we also get the honour of meeting the farmers, pickers, and all the people who work behind the scenes. Being able thank them in person for all of their hard work goes beyond words—we get to share our love for coffee and see first-hand the process and hard work that takes place.

JJ Bean Habitat For Humanity 2013 Trip Group checking out drying patios at Finca El Carmen.

Finca El Carmen coffee being prepared at Finca El Carmen

Last year we held four fundraisers—three barbecues and a massive yard sale—to help our team travel to El Salvador for JJ Bean’s most recent Habitat for Humanity trip. Lots of hard work went into these fundraisers but the experience was incredible. It brought communities together. New relationships were born, and memories were made to last a life time.

Then in November, six of us travelled to El Salvador. We built two homes with our team in the village of Ahuachapán. One home was built for a family of four with two little kids. This family had been living in a small hovel. The other home was built for a family of ten all living under one roof. We worked hard digging, mixing, laying brick all day—and every moment of it we were growing, learning new things, and building strong bonds with the families and kids.

None of this would be possible if it weren’t for the love and support of the communities surrounding each of our JJ Bean stores, and all of the businesses who donated and supported us full-on. We have felt the outpour of love and appreciate it so much. You, too, have helped these families by helping us achieve our desire. Together we can make differences that help change and shape the lives of not only families from around the world, but the volunteers as well. Thank you for your ongoing support.

Before and after picture of one of the homes.

Kids from the town being cute

Thank you notes from the kids for our team

JJ Bean Staff Reflections

Jack Harrison (JJ Bean Wholesale Delivery Driver)

My time in El Salvador really opened my eyes to how kind human beings can be to one another, no matter where we are in the world or what our situation may be. From the moment we started this adventure, that is all we experienced. Whether it was our amazing customers donating so generously, or a 7-year-old boy helping us dig a hole for his neighbours—kindness was everywhere.

On a personal level the trip was incredibly rewarding. It taught me how the power of people coming together for a common goal can achieve so much in such a short space of time, as proved on both work sites. I was lucky enough to work on both at entirely different stages, the first being at the very beginning and the latter being at the very end. Seeing the transformation at both was incredible considering the limited tools we had at our disposal.

Our team was great too. It was humbling to see us as young adults really connect with older generations in the way that we did. After the 10 days I think we all learned a lot from each other and can hopefully keep in touch.

A personal highlight for me has to be the community Football game. Being able to talk to each other for an afternoon without speaking each others language was unreal. The kids could play too! Me on the other hand struggled in 36•c heat and with a bum knee!

Jack playing football with the kids from the community

Laura Fletcher (Manager at JJ Granville Island)

Going to El Salvador with Habitat was an amazing experience, one which I will never forget. I am so grateful to have been afforded the opportunity through the generosity of John (JJ) and all of our loving and supportive customers. One of the things that I took back home with me was the amazing work ethic of the Salvadorian people. I often think of our Habitat ambassador, Katy, who worked non-stop to aid the communities in need. Her passion for helping her country was impossible to miss. Katy hardly had any days off (if any) between the various Habitat groups she led; yet she never showed frustration, fatigue,or indifference. Katy was always energetic and happy to educate us, not only on the hardships of her country, but on the joys of the Salvadorian people as well. I will always remember the uncompromising pleasure Katy took in helping others, and I hope I can love people in the same way she does.

Laura admiring some coffee trees for the first time

Wayne Liu (Equipment Tech and Master Barista)

Our team was in El Salvador for only ten days, but it felt like we lived there for a couple years. Building a foundation with the local masons, eating meals with the family, playing soccer with the kids, and so much more that cannot express by words.

One of the workers, Carlos, is living with his family in one of the Habitat houses and continues to build homes for other people in his community—plus works as a security guard at night to earn some extra income for his family. Carlos is just one of the example of many others, which helps me understand that it is me who choose what role I want to take and what I want to change in my own community back home.

I learned from the kids’ warm hugs, them saying thank you, giving me a Diploma of “por haber colaborado en la construccion de mi casa,” and a one hour long dance party with the whole village, that it is so simple to be happy when you appreciate what you have.

It was hard to be back in Vancouver after the build, to be around people having first world problems, knowing that people in El Salvador are building houses to raise their kids with only man-made picks, shovels, and lots of buckets.

After all, it is up to us, up to me, to offer what I can offer to my own community.

P.S. Our JJ team killed the build, solid. Thank you all for your lovely support.

Wayne with some of the local kids

Hollie Daley (Manager at JJ Park & Tilford)

The fundraising part was incredible for me. Working together most weekends and seeing how generous our customers were along with random people was incredible. Local business gave so generously towards my raffle basket, I was blown away by it. Traveling with a group of JJ Bean staff still gives me goosebumps just thinking about! We hustled, bustled, smiled the whole time, and even our long journey to El Salvador didn’t affect our spirit. It was a truly heartwarming.

I love digging!!!!!! Please someone get me a pickaxe for Christmas! The build site allowed us to see what the families currently lived in (a shack) while we were working on their new home—it was astounding and extremely rewarding. Bonding with a group of strangers all with the same goal was insightful, and everyone just did what needed doing. You simply found your place and got to work. But I couldn’t wait for salad and fries when I got home!

Hollie digging with a shovel

Maria Colonna (Manager at JJ Main Street)

This was my fourth Habitat Trip with JJ Bean and each time I go I come back feeling overwhelmed with a sense of just wanting to do more. These trips trigger something in me. It’s like a craving—I always want more. The people of El Salvador were inspiring, and the communities here in Vancouver who helped us with open arms will forever be embedded in my mind.

This trip to El Salvador was amazing. From the build to the people to the COFFEE! I loved seeing the plants and meeting the farmers at work first hand, who work so hard for us. I have a deep respect for the world of coffee. I was honored to be there. I loved every part of it. I love that I can bring it home with me—for myself, and to instill what I have learned in others in hopes they will recognize what we have, and how lucky we are, and the importance of giving back. I am proud to be part of this company that has given me such rich opportunities. Nothing but mad harsh love! And thank you everyone!!

Maria and one of the families

Nevada McCarthy (Manager at JJ Fraser)

To tell the tale of a humanitarian experience is a hard one. It comes from deep within the heart. The lead up to an incredible journey leaves one sensing the unknown and feeling under prepared. When you have a group of six wildly passionate young adults, breeding excitement and anticipation, there is no doubt the journey will be a success.

Our drive to spread the word and raise both money and awareness was unsurpassed. JJ Bean is passion and we took that passion to El Salvador. What we got in return was invaluable. We experienced being truly happy with what we are given in our lives: no shoes, no problem, my feet are tough.

With very little resources there lives a community that finds solutions and faces challenges with smiles and laughter. Pride of their culture is graciously exemplified and honoured. Our society can learn from this way of life.

So what do I bring back? A sense of self-awareness and the knowledge of how valuable community and culture is. I am, in my own way, filtering this into my rapidly progressing lifestyle.

Nevada hard at work digging

The JJ Group mixing cement by hand.Job site helper: the cat!

JJ Team bonding over dinner at a restaurant

Assembly line of people transporting bricks from the truck to the site, one by one, by hand.

Laying the cement foundation

The entire Habitat team and families