In the summer of 2002, PLNU alum Dr. Thomas Fitzpatrick traveled to Nicaragua with a group of his classmates and professors. With one year of dental school under his belt, he was eager to participate in a 10-day journey to Central America, where the group would open a five-day clinic to the local people who had little or no access to dental care. Nicaragua is, after all, the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, behind Haiti. With more than 70 percent of the population living off less than $2 per day, the need was easily identified.
“To say I was excited would be a complete understatement. The anticipation of not only serving, but serving through dentistry – something for which I have so much passion and had worked so hard for was finally becoming a reality,” said Fitzpatrick. The experience for him was more profound than he could have imagined.
Fitzpatrick and the group continue their trips to Nicaragua on an annual basis. In 2005, they established Foundation for Worldwide Health, a nonprofit organization that has, to date, equipped and continues to work to sustain five dental clinics in Nicaragua.
In 2010, Thomas had just returned from Boaco, a remote town in the mountains east of Managua. The Nicaraguan village was filled with 650 coffee growing families belonging to the Tierra Nueva Union of Coffee Cooperatives. While serving the people of Boaco, Fitzpatrick was inspired to do more – to purchase these beans at fair-trade prices and sell to coffee lovers in order to sustain and expand dental care for those same farmers and families.
His vision had been brewing for a while, but the need to form partnerships to help bring this initiative to life was clear. It was this vision that led him back to where he started – to Point Loma Nazarene University. Under the guidance of Randy Ataide, at that time Associate Dean of the Fermanian School of Business, a class of undergraduate business students created a formal business plan to develop what has become Cura Coffee Company. This is coffee with a cause, with a portion of Cura’s proceeds going back to support the efforts of Foundation of Worldwide Health to sustain and expand dental care in Nicaragua. The clinics are operated by a group of dentists and students from Loma Linda School of Dentistry who travel to Boaco on a regular basis. The ultimate goal is becoming a reality as there is now a rotation of Nicaraguan dental students and professors from the local University providing dental services year-round when LLU students are not in country. This will allow FWH to expand its services into other remote communities.
Fitzpatrick maintains that he is certainly learning a lot about coffee and entrepreneurship, as well as forming collaborations with other companies and organizations in order to make the biggest impact possible. He recently partnered with Café Moto to source and roast the beans, allowing him to package and sell the bags of organic whole beans, as well as single brewing cups compatible with Keurig machines
It’s been a learning experience, but he was thrilled to share his product first with his alma mater. In December, Fitzpatrick introduced Cura Coffee at PLNU’s Roots of Giving Fair. He also completed an online crowd funding campaign, which will help jump start sales online and build a strong network.
Fitzpatrick has a very deep understanding that God put him in touch with the right people at the right time. Now he feels a responsibility to continue carrying out this vision.
“There’s a point when you just have to jump out in faith,” said Fitzpatrick, “I am blessed to be able to share God’s love through dentistry and help improve the lives of many who are in need of care.”