Nicaragua, Photography, Travel

Tio Antonio: Changing Lives with Coffee & Hammocks


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After realizing the lack of opportunities in the country for individuals with disabilities, Tio Antonio (“Uncle Tony”) created Cafe de las Sonrisas, along with a Hammock shop, both which only employ individuals with disabilities. We met him on our second day in Granada, and were immediately inspired by both his vision and words. He said to us, “I want you to enjoy Nicaragua, but also really SEE Nicaragua,” meaning get to know the history and culture of the country, and look at it more than from just a tourist’s point of view.  He shared many words of wisdom with us during our brief visit, but what stuck with us the most was:

“Your camera is your power.” 

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Tio Antonio

Cafe de las Sonrisas

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Cafe De Las Sonrisas (“Smiles Coffee”) was the very first cafe in Latin America, and fourth in the world, that was staffed entirely by people with hearing disabilities.

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The entire cafe is sign language friendly – with a pictogram menu, and a wall covered with common words and phrases and the alphabet and how to sign them. They also have the most delicious pancakes and smoothies!

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Watermelon Smoothie!
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Both Tio Antonio and the entire staff at the cafe were so friendly and inviting! You can find them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/cafe.de.las.sonrisas/
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The Cafe is also breastfeeding friendly, inviting mothers to come on in if needed and providing them with a free cup of coffee.
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In the centre of the cafe exists a small courtyard of sorts, with trees and shrubs and rabbits running around.
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Bicycle powered smoothie makers, allowing guests to make their own smoothies!

The Hammock Shop

Right next door to the cafe is a hammock shop and a room with workers creating hammocks.

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The hammock shop is employed by only individuals with disabilities – some can’t see, some can’t hear, some have other disabilities, but they all make incredible hammocks!

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These hammocks are sought after by individuals from all over the world, and some request specific colours and/or patterns for their hammocks.

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A colourful hammock being made by a blind young man.

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The Never Ending Hammock

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This is the never ending hammock – a hammock created by recycled plastic bags, in order to fight for a cleaner and greener Granada, Nicaragua. Anyone can bring plastic bags and help weave the hammock. The Never Ending Hammock will not stop being made until the streets of Granada are clean.

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Close up of one end of the Never Ending Hammock.

 

Visit http://tioantonio.org/ to learn more about Tio Antonio and his incredible work.

 

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