Jarrod Brown operates San Lazaro Coffee out of Honduras. Their social impact organization, Mission Lazarus, has been around since 2004, and between Honduras, Haiti, and the US, employ nearly 200 people.
Two private college prep academies. Two vocational schools. Three medical clinics. One dental clinic. Four children’s homes. And four businesses, including San Lazaro Coffee.
For Brown, Honduras is his sandbox. He lived there for 12 years, building relationships and investing his time and energy into projects that genuinely work to transform lives. He’s used to getting his hands dirty and taking risks; used to uncertain times. But since COVID-19 struck the western hemisphere, he can’t even get a flight there.
“It’s like I’m sitting here watching my house burn down,” he said. “And I’m standing next to a fire hydrant but I don’t have a hose.”
The world could use a few more Jarrod Browns. Honduras needs theirs right now. They don’t have some of the built-in safety nets we do. There are not many savings accounts. There are no government stimulus packages on the horizon. There are no easily accessible unemployment benefits. In Honduras they don’t lay people off, they don’t furlough employees. “Those aren’t even words in their language,” Brown tells me. “The concept doesn’t even exist there.”
So Brown and his partners sit in Tennessee, hundreds of miles of quarantined cities between them and Honduras, incurring debt, watching their work virtually burn to the ground. Sales are down 50 percent, donations are down 98. Brown is already working on cutting the Mission Lazarus budget by almost 30 percent. When life gets back to normal, many of their social programs south of the border will be shut down. More of their employees will be jobless. Even more will feel the impact of their absence.
“It’s really, really weird,” he said.
For all of us, these are weird days. For many others, though, these are days of fear and uncertainty—in finances and in health.
For me, it’s a reminder of how easy it can be to focus on myself. How easy it can be to hoard resources and shut my door to the outside world, and thus to those who struggle.
At Mill47, we value people and improving the human condition. Period. Right now, we are committed to helping people in this broad space of coffee so they can continue their good work. In Honduras. Or Yunnan. Or El Salvador. Or Brazil. We’re trying to prop up a few quality companies and organizations that are currently overstocked with quality green coffee and no customers to buy it. It isn’t much, but we hope to provide some amount of relief.
We’re counting on you to join us.