The first time I saw Noe Amaya, I was a little distracted. I had just taken my first ride on the back of a motorcycle through the mountains of La Unión. Our Field Officer Gilberto brought me to the village of Nueva Paz to help examine pilas, large cement water cisterns, in various homes in the community. We were embarking on a community partnership project there, where a clean, fresh source of water was hours away.
|Noe and his family.
A motorcycle ride through the mountains of western Honduras is the most breathtakingly beautiful experience. For a good hour or so afterwards it’s hard to snap out of the dreamy reverie it inspires. Noe, however, snapped me out of it right away. He was too expressive and too energetic to ignore. In many ways, Noe is the leader of Nueva Paz, a village that participates in our microloan program. He regularly lends his knowledge of construction, coffee, or various other skills to community members who need it. People stop by his house often, asking for advice or looking for a connection to some resource or person. Noe is the man to advise, to connect people, to lead. He had already built a pila in his own home, but he lent his knowledge to build pilas in other homes during the community partnership project. In typical Noe fashion, he offered his help in any way, and then ended up coordinating and leading most of the work.
Noe isn’t from La Unión. He’s from the state of Atlantida along the northern coast of the country, which makes his role as a leader in the insular community of Nueva Paz that much more impressive. He has a small coffee farm, or finca, that measures around 1.2 acres. His wife and three young sons help maintain and harvest his finca, making it truly a family affair. Noe cultivates his own field in addition to picking coffee on larger farms during the harvest, working on bean or corn farms, and taking on any construction job or odd job he can. Due to his unceasing energy, he turns this eclectic mix of exhausting work into a livelihood for himself and his entire family.
His passion, however, is his coffee field. From his small field he managed to grow a great coffee; his beans contribute to our Dark Roast. When you talk to Noe, you understand why he’s reaping great things from a tiny stretch of land. The word calidad - quality - threads through his conversation about coffee. “That’s my plan, growing a coffee of calidad...you can’t grow coffee without caring about its calidad...the goal of utilizing UMF’s resources is to increase the calidad of my coffee.” Because of this, I love listening to Noe talk about his coffee. He thinks critically about his harvest. He has a vision for his coffee - one of a specialty-grade product, one where the bottom line isn’t necessarily the money he can make from his harvest but rather the name he can make for himself as a producer of coffee. This combination of energy and vision makes me excited to follow Noe’s future as a coffee producer.
|Noe leads construction on a pila.
The last time I saw Noe Amaya, he was shouting over a thunderstorm pounding against his tin roof. It was about six months after first meeting the Amaya family, and I had come back to Nueva Paz with another UMF Field Officer, Martir. We were visiting friends in the community when the thunderstorm made any chance of driving our motorcycle down the muddy roads too dangerous to attempt. Noe, of course, offered to let us stay with his family until the storm cleared. His wife Mirna served us cups of coffee and plates of tamales, and we chatted about life. Noe talked about his plans for his field, for the success of his community, and the need to take ownership of the circumstances we’re born into. I sat there for a long time, soaking up his wisdom, nodding at Mirna’s clever interjections, and playing with their youngest son. I felt honored that UMF was connected to this family.
Eventually the storm cleared, and Martir went to grab the motorcycle. I should have been excited because the sun had set and we were going to drive through the Honduran mountains under the stars. But I wanted to stay, to keep talking about life and gleaning all the warmth and wisdom I could from Noe and Mirna. I realized that I had finally found something even more beautiful than a mountain moto ride under the stars, something I had thought impossible until meeting the Amaya family.