Charity Pronica. There are many charities in the cigar industry. Most of the charities are funded and supported by cigar factories or cigar brands. But not all. Pronica is a cigar charity founded by a distributor and retailer. Sasja van Horssen, owner of the Longfiller Company, Van Dalen Cigars, and Cigaragua in The Netherlands started the foundation in 2015.
In the summer of 2014, Van Horssen was hosting a small event in his Van Dalen Cigars shop in Rotterdam. The guest of honor was Juan Martinez from Joya de Nicaragua. At a certain moment, the conversation topic was education. Martinez told that Joya de Nicaragua supports education in Nicaragua in several different ways. He explained that the average child in Nicaragua only gets a few years of primary education and that less than $100 USD a year can provide a year of education for a child.
Van Horssen was convinced that he needed to give back to the country that gave him so much. As a successful distributor of Nicaraguan cigars, and the owner of successful tobacco retail outlets, he felt he needed to do something. So with the help of Joya de Nicaragua, he found a cause. Fe y Alegria is an organization with schools all over Latin America. Including a location in Esteli, the capital of cigars. So Van Horssen decided to raise money for that school.
The way Pronica is funded is simple yet genius. The funding goes through Van Horssen’s import and distribution company. He raises the price of every Nicaraguan cigar by 10 dollar cents and donates that to Pronica. And that money goes straight to Fe y Alegria. Pronica doesn’t have any employees and no overhead.
Fe Y Alegria
Early 2015 Van Horssen went to Nicaragua for the Cigaragua book. Journalist Marcel Langedijk, photographer Jesaja Hutubesy, and I joined him for the project. Included in the trip was a visit to the school. During that visit, the principal, an elderly nun, was telling that a certain block of classrooms was deemed unfit and unsafe. We asked what a new block of classrooms would cost, and the answer was a number lower than what we expected to make for Pronica in the first year. It shows that a little money goes a long way in Nicaragua and that making a difference is possible with a little effort.
Since 2015 Pronica raised close to $1450.000 due to the growing sales of Nicaraguan cigars in The Netherlands. But also through donations from other companies such as Royal Agio Cigars, Oliva Cigars, La Sagrada Familia Cigars. J. Cortes, the owners of Oliva Cigar joined Pronica, donating the same $0.10 for every Oliva cigar sold in Belgium. And private initiatives, such as Run 4 Pronica. That money has put hundreds of children to school and helped Fe Y Alegria to renovate buildings and furniture.
Van Horssen welcomes distributors from other countries to copy his operation and join Pronica. Or form their own charity to give back to the communities in any form.
Since the charity is doing so well and raising more money than expected, Van Horssen decided to change course a little. In 2015, 2016, and 2017, Pronica donated 100% of the money to Fe y Alegria. But it is more money than the school can handle. The donations for 2018, and 2019 are currently in reserve for other projects. Van Horssen is setting up a new structure to make Pronica an official foundation with board members and an official treasurer. Once that is done, Pronica will start other projects in and around Esteli to support the people of Nicaragua.