It was on our Tor-Tour of Nicaragua in 2017 that our friends at Joya de Nicaragua took us to visit a Primary School in Esteli, run by the charity Fe y Alegria. This Christian organisation, translated as Faith and Happiness, runs the school for some of the area’s poorest families.
The school is led by the remarkable headmistress, Sor Purificacion Gutierrez, a tiny but formidable lady who is achieving remarkable things.
Fe y Alegria was formed in Latin American in 1960 to help the poorest in society get an education and a chance to have a better future.
It is not widely publicised, but since 2014 Joya de Nicaragua provides scholarship to many of the youngsters at the school. But is there an ethical dilemma raised by a tobacco company actively fundraising for children?
“At first glance it can seem incorrect “says Sor Purificacion Gutierrez, “but, by analysing it, you can justify it and have another perception. Every company has a social responsibility to the wellbeing of society. Education is the first pillar to achieve a fairer society, working to better the life of a human being. We have to manage and create alliances to solve our expenses. In this alliance with Joya de Nicaragua, the company collaborates directly to provide an education for boys and girls – for them not to give up on education and prepare them for a better future”
As well as a close collaboration with Fe y Alegria, Joya de Nicaragua supports other local causes: financial aid for children with special needs, funding towards emergency housing for the poorest in the community and a variety of benefits for Joya de Nicaragua workers. These range from ‘new Mum’ packages for female workers having children, to potential university scholarships for their offspring or grandchildren. There is subsidised eyecare, a savings and loans co-operative, lifelong training and a scheme for eligible retirees that supplies a monthly essential grocery parcel for life.
We were inspired by the faith and happiness that Sor Purificacion Gutierrez and her team in Belen spread, and made the decision that we should give something back to the Nicaraguan community that have given us their world class cigars.
Joya de Nicaragua introduced us to the charity programme, Pro Nica, that was set up and is run by Sasja van Horssen of Hollands Longfiller Company. They have raised an incredible amount for the charity, but under UK tobacco legislation we cannot promote or take part in their impressive Pro Nica campaign.
So we had to do things differently…
The Sewing Room
During our visits to the school, it was fantastic to see how neat and tidy and well turned out the children were at school, and more amazing was to find out the fact that the children had to make their own uniforms in sewing class in advance of their graduation!
The sewing machines and equipment in the room were like something out of the Singers factory in Clydebank in the 1960s, with old machinery, frequent malfunctions and seemingly endless repairs.
Since our first visit to the school in 2017, it became an objective for Tor to fund the modernisation of this room. In September 2020, we were able to achieve this and fund a complete overhaul of the sewing room, with new machines, repairs to existing ‘semi modern’ machines and new chairs for the children to use.
Around the World in 80 Cigars – Nick Hammond.
In September 2019, we were proud to become the distributor for “Around the World in 80 Cigars - The Travels of An Epicure” written by the renowned author and cigar writer Nick Hammond. Nick wrote “Cinco Decadas – The Rise of the Nicaraguan Cigar” to commemorate Joya de Nicaragua’s 50th Anniversary in 2018, has been a columnist for Cigar Journal for many years and was the inaugural winner of the Spectator Cigar Writer of the Year Award in 2013. He pens cigar and luxury articles for publications around the world and has long been a massive supporter of the UK and global cigar trade.
Nick was one of the travellers on our Tor-Tour of Nicaragua, falling in love with the country, the people and the culture. It was on his visit to the Belen Primary School in Esteli in 2017 that he made a pledge that if his book ever came to fruition and was published, he would donate a percentage of the profits back to Fe y Alegria.
A man of his word, Nick is donating ten percent of his profits from “Around the World In 80 Cigars – The Travels Of An Epicure” back to Fe y Alegria, and we at Tor have also agreed to donate £1 for every copy sold to retailers and wholesalers across the world.
We continue to raise funds through various mechanisms, and look forward to the day when we can travel back to Nicaragua to present Sor Purificacion Gutierrez with a very large cheque to help her continue her magnificent work in improving the quality of education for these underprivileged children in Esteli.
Below you can see some 'before' images of the Sewing Room that we took on our visit, the 'after' images will be uploaded soon!