Offer a snack that is vegan, paleo, gluten-free … and tastes decadent! You and your family can enjoy while feeling good about the ingredients you used and knowing how they were sourced!
We like that these cups take very little time but fully satisfy your cravings for something chocolatey, sweet and crunchy. Plus, they’re made with organic, fairly traded ingredients!
Place chocolate chips and coconut oil in a heatproof bowl. Set over a pot of boiling water (but not touching the water) and stir until melted.
Place paper cupcake lines inside the cups of a muffin tin. Add a tablespoon of melted chocolate to each cupcake liner. Use a spoon to work the chocolate up the sides of the liner. Place the whole muffin tin in the freezer for five minutes, until the chocolate hardens.
Remove tin from the freezer and place one scoop of the almond butter mixture in the center of each chocolate filled cupcake liner.
Top each filled cupcake liner with remaining chocolate until the almond butter is completely covered. Place two whole almonds on the top of each almond butter cup.
Place the cups in the freezer for five more minutes to firm up.
Recipe adapted from JoyfulHealthyEats.com
We love to celebrate our many fundraising catalog partners. Each participating group makes a direct and positive impact on farming families across the globe as they offer their products to their communities. For this, we thank you!
Ballet 5:8 is a 501(c)3 nonprofit based outside of Chicago. They’ve been partnering with our catalog program for over 5 years, raising $10,126 for their organization in that time! Successful fundraising is a crucial part of their mission to bring high-quality ballet performances and educational programs throughout Chicago and beyond. They take fundraising very seriously.
Ballet 5:8’s Executive Director Amy Kozol Sanderson offered her insights about the nonprofit’s continued success with our fundraising catalog program. We asked Amy why an Equal Exchange fundraiser matches up so well with their organization. Here’s what she said:
Coffee and chocolate are great items that everybody loves! The items available in the catalog are great options especially for families that eat healthy and wouldn’t order other products such as frozen cookie dough.
We appreciate the generous profit margin of 40% that is available for nonprofit fundraisers. Many other similar fundraiser options only donate back 10-15%. The 40% makes this fundraiser very worthwhile for the time and effort of everyone involved.
The funds go directly to our dance education center, Ballet 5:8’s School of the Arts. This helps us keep our tuition low and accessible to community members of all walks of life, so all can reap the benefits of high quality dance education. The funds also help support our scholarship programs for students in particular financial need, as well as our professional-quality ballet performances, which we also work to keep accessible to our local community through low ticket prices and donated tickets. We are huge advocates of the ways the fine arts can strengthen and inspire communities!
We make sure to communicate very clearly to families about our mission and the nature of our organization as a 501(c)3 nonprofit that relies partially on donated funding. From there, with the enthusiasm about our mission, we communicate clearly on how families can help out with the fundraiser. Communication includes fliers and handouts, emails, and in-person reminders from instructors and staff people.
We ask each of the families participating on our dance education programs to take part in the fundraiser, and we give out prizes related to our school – Ballet 5:8 School of the Arts swag like t-shirts, and tickets to our upcoming Nutcracker production for the top sellers as an incentive to sell more.
We’ve found it is best to have one person in charge of collecting orders and inputting them into the order spreadsheet; this minimizes typos and other errors. Make sure to double check once everything is in. Then, when it comes to sorting the orders, make sure to have plenty of volunteers ready to help! We’ve found there are usually some human error made during the sorting process, but it helps if the volunteer coordinator and the volunteers all know to keep going back to re-check sorted orders until they find the problem. Most of the time it can be spotted even if it’s on the 3rd or 4th try!
We have several office staff people who are involved in organizing. As mentioned earlier, having enough hands to help is crucial, but for the sake of organization and accuracy it is also helpful to have specific, individual people in charge of each area of responsibility.
Thank you Amy and Ballet 5:8! Your fundraising success is also a huge win for small farmers. Keep up the outstanding work!
What has worked for your organization? Let us know in the comments below or share with other Equal Exchange Fundraising organizers on Facebook. If you or someone you know would like to receive more fundraising tips and news from Equal Exchange, click here and sign up for our e-newsletters.
Party animals won’t be able to stop reaching for this snack on game day — it’s tangy, salty and a little spicy!
Stay up-to-date with fair trade recipes!
Thank you for signing up for our newsletter!
At Equal Exchange, we’re proud to help schools, nonprofits and organizations of all sizes raise money with an easy catalog program. Participating groups often reach – and exceed – their fundraising goals while also supporting authentic fair trade!
“Silver Rail Elementary School is working to be a collaborative culture that encourages curiosity, critical thinking and problem solving as we engage in academics, wellness and service to the community.”
Silver Rail Elementary School opened in Bend, Oregon four years ago. As a new school in need of funding, the Silver Rail PTA is very active raising money for the school’s various programs including field trips, assemblies, reading programs, artists in residence, and a new LEGO® robotics program.
In the fall of 2018, Silver Rail PTA participated in the Equal Exchange fundraising program for the first time with a goal to raise $3,000. The campaign far exceeded that and they raised over $5,000! To learn just how, in their first year participating, their campaign did so well, we asked Silver Rail PTA President Brant Himes to share his insights to help empower others to succeed. Here’s what he said:
Equal Exchange was a good fit for the culture of our school. Our school motto is ‘kindness matters. Equal Exchange gave us an opportunity to participate in a fundraiser where we could feel good about promoting and selling fair trade and organic products that aligned with our values of supporting community.
We started actively planning for this fundraiser during the Summer before the school year started. We ordered sample products to share at our September PTA meeting, and then had catalogs ready to go home in October. The samples and catalogs arrived very quickly, which made it easy to get organized.
We also appreciated the educational materials that were available, so our students could learn more about what makes fair trade different, and how Equal Exchange works with local farmers.
We sent home catalogs and a letter with every student, and promoted the fundraiser on our Facebook pages and in the school newsletter. We also had a kick-off assembly at the school where we challenged them with our school-wide goal: if we raised $5,000 profit, then the entire school would earn an ice cream party. To help foster a larger sense of community at the school, we opted for a school-wide prize instead of individual seller prizes.
EE provided great resources for organization. I would advise making sure to review everything that EE provides as you go through the fundraiser. We devised our own system for counting and sorting orders, but then realized the EE had a great order form spreadsheet and so we ended up using that in the end.
We had our fundraising chair take charge of the organization for the launch of the fundraiser, and then our board helped support the fundraiser throughout, especially with counting and entering the orders.
We rallied a group of volunteers to sort the orders upon arrival, and things went quicker than we anticipated. Again, EE had great strategies for organization (like setting out all the products around the room in order of the order form), and this helped keep the process clear.
We had great enthusiasm for this fundraiser and I anticipate we will want to do it again next year. People loved the products.
Next year, we will promote more with local businesses to consider purchasing the gift packs for their holiday employee gifts, as we had a couple of large orders for these that really pushed us over the top of our goal. We will also be able to process the orders more quickly just having done this before. From beginning to end, this was one of the more smooth and successful fundraisers that we have done! Thank you for your support of our school!
We did meet our goal, and so it was exciting to provide the ice cream for the school!
Well done, Silver Rail PTA! Your success is also a huge win for small farmers.
Do you have fundraising tips to share? Join other Equal Exchange Coordinators on Facebook and let us know.
Time for guacamole! Our favorite recipe comes from our friend Scarlett de la Vega Ochoa, a native of Puebla, Mexico. Here’s how she makes it!
Try a guacamole recipe from Mexico! This creamy dip is sure to delight you and your party guests. Fair trade avocados = perfection.
Finely chop the garlic, onion and cilantro and juice the limes.
Cut avocados in half, remove the pit and slice. Detach avocado from peel with spoon and place fruit in a bowl.
Pour juice of one lime along with the garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper. With a fork, smash the avocados until all ingredients are mixed.
Mix and taste it. If it needs more lime, add the other one and mix again.
Equal Exchange proudly works with PRAGOR, a group of small-scale avocado farmers in Michoacán Mexico. Corporate interests have made it difficult for small-scale farmers to compete in the market. But the farmers of PRAGOR organized to control the entire process, from growing to exporting.
Ask the produce department at your local grocery store to carry fairly traded avocados from Equal Exchange!
Want to read more fair trade recipes? Sign up for our mailing list!
Thank you for signing up for our newsletter!
Fundraising with Equal Exchange is effective any time of year, but add in a special theme during the first half of the year can help you get to your goal faster. Here’s how…
Planning a campaign with a holiday or a seasonal theme gives you the power of suggestion. People automatically will view the fairly traded, organic products featured in the fundraising catalog >> as a gift-giving opportunity. Gifts are priced higher than the other items in the catalog, so you’ll raise more money. For example, five individual chocolate bars sold during your fundraiser will raise approximately $8.00 for your group. If those five chocolate bars were instead five gifts of the Equal Exchange’s Chocolate Bar Collection, you’d raise $62.00 instead of $8.00! It’s the same amount of work, but gifts will help you reach your goal much quicker.
Themes also inherently provide a special energy! People can get excited for Mother’s Day, for example. And, the deadline for your campaign becomes relevant to your supporters so they can get orders to you in time.
If you’re not sure how to promote your fundraiser, themes give you plenty to talk about throughout your campaign. (Click here for more tips to help you promote.) Use social media, newsletters, website, flyers and whatever works best for your group to tell them.
“Mother’s Day is a few weeks away! Our fundraiser ends Friday so order her perfect gift today!”
Every calendar year offers plenty of themes to choose from. And don’t overlook your organization’s special dates, such as an anniversary. Pick what works for you, then use this guide >> to plan your schedule. Here are a few springtime suggestions to kick off the new year with a successful fundraiser:
To raise the most, we suggest that you give yourself as much time as possible to run a successful fundraiser. Why wait? Request your free catalogs>> today and get the first step out of the way.
Equal Exchange fundraising organizers want to know! Share your fundraising experience with our special group on Facebook>>.
Buying clubs offer you the opportunity to make a real difference for small farmers around the world while paying less for your favorite organic and Fair Trade foods. Order together and get staples like coffee, tea, chocolate, olive oil and more at low wholesale case prices. We’ll ship orders of $75 or more for free.
We’re not talking about ordering a pallet’s worth of coffee! Although we do offer some bulk products, most products come 6 or 12 items in a case. And you’re still welcome to purchase individual items at retail pricing too.
Buying clubs not only make financial sense and build community, they also minimize your environmental impact. They help you use less packaging and achieve a lower carbon footprint by consolidating shipments. Buying clubs are also ideal for folks who don’t live near a natural foods store or food coop and want access to affordable, high quality, ethically sourced products. Ordering together also means a unique opportunity to try-out new products at a lower price than if you had to buy something individually off of the shelf.
Reach out to
Pro Tip: Host a coffee or chocolate tasting when you introduce the idea of the buying club. Not only will it make it easier for folks to decide what to order, but we’ve found that once people taste the quality, they are likely to want a regular supply! Use these key talking points to get people on board.
Once you have a group together, select a coordinator and a treasurer.
Pro tips: Ordering 5-pound bulk bags of coffee to share? Order our tin-tie bags for easy labeling and distribution. If your buying club is small, consider requiring that members purchase products in full or half-case quantities to minimize leftovers.
Gather individual orders from club members. Use our order form, or create your own that includes only the products your group orders.
Pro Tip: Order $75 worth of products to qualify for free shipping.
Then, place your master order:
You’ll pay in full at the time of your order, but if your group is interested in paying an invoice after receiving the shipment, Equal Exchange allows Net 14 payment terms. To apply for credit terms you’ll need to have one order pre-paid with a credit card then fill out our form agreeing you will pay within 14 days of receiving your order. Contact Customer Service at 774-776-7366 to find out more.
When products arrive at the designated pick-up location, have a consistent system for distribution. Collect payment when people pick up their orders, if you do not require members to pre-pay. A payment app like Venmo is an easy system to use. Enjoy your good deals, your good food, and place another order when you have critical mass.
Pro tips: Why not make the pick-up time a chance to enjoy each other’s company? You could hold a chocolate tasting or taste-test newer product releases. Equal Exchange offers a rewards program where you can earn “beans” to be redeemed for things like discounts!
If folks tend to want the same products regularly, we’re soon going to debut a subscription order program so buying club members don’t always have to remember to re-order. It can arrive at monthly or on your own time-line.
You can even expand your buying club to include sharing larger quantities of products from local farms. Imagine the feeling of knowing where almost all of your food comes from and the farmers behind the food!
Not sure buying clubs are for you?
Read why Edith Stacey-Huber, who runs a successful buying club, chose to start one. Maybe you have some of the same goals?
“The first buying club I started was in the early ‘90s. That club was started out of financial necessity, and as I look back, I was motivated by my view of a monopolized grocery system. There were very few stores, thus the lack of competition didn’t evoke any savings to the consumer. I was also looking for organic food, real food, and there were only two small health food stores in the city.
Since my relatives were farmers it wasn’t outside the box for me to seek out food from farms. Seeing the commitment of our local organic farmers to grow food the way they do, some for years, barely making it, but still staying committed to what they know is right–I couldn’t turn a blind eye to that. I found a small natural foods distributor, gathered a few friends and the first club was born.
Once I started procuring food this way, there was no turning back. The club model has changed over the years with the obliteration of small distributors, and my deeper awareness of food justice and buying local, but I was always either a key member, treasurer, coordinator, or founder of a club.
Our current club model has taken bolder steps to remove ourselves completely from the commercial food system. Personally, our family has a direct connection to our food and I would say 80 percent of the food we eat, we know who grew it or the source it comes from.
I think consumers have the potential to hold all of the power, if we organize, become diligent in our efforts and become truly informed voters and active in spearheading the changes we want to see.”
Winter days and bad weather mean … hot chocolate season! Share a steaming cup of cocoa with friends, dressed up with custom toppings. Line up your favorite fixings and gather a group for a DIY hot chocolate bar. This is a fun, hands-on activity — and an effective way to raise money or raise awareness. We’ll show you how!
You can’t have a roof without a foundation. And you can’t have toppings without a good cup of hot chocolate! Mix up one huge batch of cocoa for everyone, keeping it warm in a carafe or thermos. Or give each person the opportunity to pair their own dairy or plant-based milk with the cocoa of their choice.
Equal Exchange offers a variety of amazing organic and fair trade cocoa options. Traditional Hot Cocoa keeps it super-simple, with powdered milk from Organic Valley right in the canister. This simple mix can be stirred with hot water for instant satisfaction. Looking for more adventure — or a dairy-free option? Our Spicy Hot Cocoa adds a touch of cayenne and cinnamon for a Mexican-inspired kick. And our special Dark Hot Chocolate includes shaved chocolate as well as cocoa for double the rich, chocolatey goodness. These two are Vegan and contain no dairy ingredients. Prepare them with skim, whole, soy, almond — whatever you like best.
For a truly gourmet experience, you can mix up hot chocolate from scratch, the European way. Just combine one tablespoon of Organic Baking Cocoa with 8oz of heated milk and a sweetener like sugar, honey, or agave, and blend it all together. Or try this decadent recipe for Rosemary Drinking Chocolate that calls for baking cocoa and chopped chocolate. Yum!
Here are some set-up ideas for your Hot Chocolate Bar. Ask members of your group to bring in mugs and arrange them all at one end of a long table. Then, line up toppings in low dishes or clear jars, so everyone can see what’s up for grabs and add what they like. Don’t forget serving spoons — and something to stir with. Make sure to label the toppings, including allergen information for safety. If different people are bringing in toppings, you might want blank labels and pens. This activity can get messy, so we recommend a tablecloth and napkins.
What will you put in your cup? Think outside the box! Once you’ve heated up the cocoa — one serving at a time or in batches — and poured it into people’s mugs, give them lots of treats to choose from.
SWEET: marshmallows, fluff, candy hearts, chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, sprinkles, candy canes, truffles, shaved or crushed chocolate bars (try our top picks, Dark Chocolate Mint Crunch or Dark Chocolate Orange), ice cream, whipped cream
SPICY: Cinnamon sticks, peppermint sticks, peppermint drops, candied ginger, shakers of ground cinnamon, cayenne, nutmeg or allspice
ADULTS ONLY: Try spiking your cocoa with a shot of whiskey, rum, or the flavored liqueur of your choice. Or add in fresh-brewed fair trade coffee — our favorite thing!
A hot chocolate bar is truly DIY and customizable. We think it’s a great activity for people of any age who like to have fun together — whether you’re a scout troop, an underground dance collective, a book club or a religious study group! DIY cocoa is also fun for parties and class celebrations. Just make sure to provide appropriate toppings for the size and tastes of your group.
Maybe you’d like to raise some money for a local charity, a school trip, an adoption or medical fundraiser, or some other good cause. This is a great way to do that! Ask for a donation for each cup of cocoa. Make sure it’s enough to cover the cost of the toppings — we recommend $2-3 a cup. Earn even more cash by ordering Equal Exchange cocoa at low wholesale case prices and selling it to folks for home use. We find people are willing to pay $7-8 per canister — a markup from the $5.30 per canister cost — when they know the profits are dedicated to a worthy purpose. (Especially once they’ve experienced how delicious it is!) This is called a table sale. Learn more about how do run one here.
A hot chocolate bar is attention-grabbing and fun. So it’s a perfect way to get attention for an upcoming event. Invite your supporters over for some cocoa and tell them about the concert or book launch you’re planning. Combine it with an informal training or use it as an icebreaker at a meeting. Planning to run an Equal Exchange catalog fundraiser? Kick off your campaign with a hot cocoa bar — use it as an opportunity to let potential supporters taste the great fair trade products you’ll be selling.
We’d love to hear from you! If you tried this, let us know how it went. We’ll share our favorite pictures and tips on social media.
Join us for more fair trade fun!
Thank you for signing up for our newsletter!
As the days get shorter in the northern hemisphere and the winter solstice draws near, people all over are gathering close to share food, burn candles, and celebrate. Equal Exchange works with producer groups on four continents — and our coworkers here in the U.S. hail from many different lands, too. We checked in with three Equal Exchange worker-owners to learn about Christmas and New Year holiday traditions in their home countries.
Gladys Minaya comes from Peru. There, she says, Christmas is the biggest holiday of the year — a birthday party for the Baby Jesus. They begin preparations with an advent wreath, lighting a new candle on each of the four Sundays before Christmas.
The main celebration takes place on Christmas Eve, when it’s common to attend midnight Mass, Misa de Gallo. Afterward, family members gather at home to eat different kinds of salad, lamb, and desserts. They set up a Nativity and play music for the Baby Jesus, Villancicos de Navidad. To emphasize giving, not receiving, they also collect for people who are less fortunate. On Christmas day, it’s traditional to eat a turkey dinner and visit friends in the neighborhood, bringing cookies!
And after Christmas, on January 6th, they bless their home for the New Year, praying and writing with blessed chalk on the front door of the house C+M+B. This stands for Christ Might Bless and is also is the initials of the traditional Magi: Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar.
Martha Griem was born in the US, but both of her parents are German, so she grew up celebrating German traditions alongside American ones.
December 6th in Germany is Nikolaustag. Before going to bed the night before, children leave their shoes out to be filled with goodies by St. Nikolaus. Sometimes in the days that follow, St. Nikolaus himself will visit a group of neighborhood kids. As he passes out gifts to each girl or boy in front of all the others, he’ll tell them (thanks to intelligence provided by their parents) what they did well that year and what aspects of their behavior need improvement. Advent calendars and Adventskränze — advent wreaths — are popular ways to count down to the holidays. People decorate their homes with trees and Weihnachtspyramide, spinning wooden carousels powered by candle-heat, depicting nativity figures.
The big celebration — once again — happens on December 24th. Germans share Christmas Eve dinner with neighbors and extended family. Martha’s family eats beef fondue. After the festive meal, the Christ Child personally visits each house! Children are made to hide while the adults meet with him in the living room. He leaves behind presents and sparkly things — glitter or small bells — as evidence for the skeptics.
Marlon Cifuentes hails from San Felipe Reu on the Pacific coast of Guatemala. Just like in Peru and Germany, here it’s also traditional to celebrate on the night of the 24th, a Catholic observance that has become so popular that even the non-religious join in. Guatemalans spend Christmas with siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts uncles and cousins. If you go out with friends beforehand, you’d better be back home for a dinner with your family by the stroke of midnight! Typical foods include tamales, apples, grapes, and perhaps a turkey. They enjoy ponche de frutas, a sweet drink made from fruits and cinnamon — usually non-alcoholic, so the kids can try it, too — and exchange gifts. And they share food with neighbors.
Because the holiday is so family-oriented, Marlon says that it reminds him more of American Thanksgiving than of Christmas. At midnight, you can see and hear fireworks going off everywhere. In small towns, they close off the streets for singing and dancing.
Here in Rhode Island, where he lives now, Marlon usually celebrates with friends. This year, he’ll go to the house of a friend — also a Guatemalan — so they can pretend they’re at home!
¡Feliz Año Nuevo!
Don’t be a stranger in 2019! Sign up to receive our bi-weekly newsletter:
Thank you for signing up for our newsletter!
The Stories Behind Our Food has a new episode! Here it is.
You can hear #StoriesBehindOurFood on:
Stitcher (on both Apple and Android.)
Apple Podcasts (Apple devices only.)
Google Podcasts (Android devices only.)
or wherever you enjoy online audio!
Did you like this episode? Don’t forget to subscribe to The Stories Behind Our Food and leave a review!
Intro:0:05Everyday grocery store items like bananas, chocolate, coffee — these are global commodities. They pass through a lot of people’s hands on their way from the fields to your grocery cart. This is The Stories Behind Out Food Podcast, the podcast where expert guests share insider knowledge about every step along the process. I’m Danielle Robidoux — and I’m Kate Chess — and we’re your hosts.
Danielle R.:0:30Sexual violence as a tactic of war is a huge problem worldwide. We’re here today to talk about the Democratic Republic of Congo. Maybe you heard recently that Dr. Denis Mukwege is the co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for his work with the Panzi Hospital and survivors of sexual violence. We’re here today with Beth Ann Caspersen, the coffee quality control manager at Equal Exchange and cofounder of the Congo Coffee Project. She’ll be giving an important background on the political situation in the DRC and steps that you can take as an individual to make a difference.
Beth Ann:1:07Hi everyone. Great to be here.
Danielle R.:1:10Beth Ann, can you give us just like a brief landscape of the history and overview of this problem?
Beth Ann:1:20The problem we’re working to address is the sexual violence in Democratic Republic of Congo, the DRC, which it’s known as, is the second largest country in central Africa and it’s located in an area known as the Great Lakes region. It’s surrounded by nine countries and it occupies this great expanse of land and resources. So there are countries like Rwanda, Central African Republic, Uganda, all around the DRC and there are more than 78 million people. It’s rich in biodiversity. It has these vast natural resources. But there’s this history that’s really important to understand. First you need to understand that the Belgians colonized the DR Congo in the 1880s, and in 1885, King Leopold II declared it his private property and he named it the Congo Free State. This is where colonization begins bringing with it, unfortunately, death and disease. And in the 1900s it became the Belgian Congo. You’ll see a variety of name changes throughout the history.
Beth Ann:2:26And during this period of Belgian rule, the Belgians are just extracting resources and there’s very little development. and it really wasn’t until 1960 that they achieved independence. The first president — this might be getting down into the details, but it’s an important to understand about the presidents as well — was Joseph Kasa-Vubu, however, conflict arose over the administration of the territory which became known as the Congo Crisis, and so he was ousted. The Republic of Congo — and it’s also known now as the Republic of Congo. So here we go through our name changes. Through this, you see another leader rise and take power through a coup and he’s called Mobutu Sese Seko, and he was a military dictator. And this is going on from 1965 to 1997. At this point in 1970, the country again is renamed Zaire. So again, we’re seeing this, this theme, what we know is that there’s conflict warring groups and continual fighting for land and resources.
Beth Ann:3:33And this persists throughout the history of Congo. Mobutu begins to lose power in the 1990s. And then we see in 1994 the Rwandan genocide. This is a war between two ethnic groups and the Rwanda is right again on the border of DRC and it’s the Tutsis and Hutus and this unfortunate event claimed more than 800,000 lives in a very short period of time in 100 days, they say. So there’s a lot of warring happening there. There’s this political strife and then the Congo goes into its first war. It’s called the first Congo War and this is in 1996 where there’s a foreign invasion of Zaire that is led by Rwanda and that replaces President Mobutu with the rebel leader Laurent-Desire Kabila, and he is the first Kabila. There is another Kabila that comes along a little later in our story. Mobutu flees and Kabila becomes president.
Beth Ann:4:36Unfortunately, his reign is very short because there are tensions between President Kabila and the Rwandan and Tutsi presence in the country and this led to unfortunately the second Congo War and that was from 1998 to 2003. This war involved all of the neighboring countries, so all nine countries and around 20 armed groups. And ultimately it resulted in the deaths of what is estimated to be 5.4 million people. Let me repeat that. Five point 4 million people. So what happens next? President Kabila was assassinated by one of his bodyguards in 2001. And then he was succeeded. Some people say eight days, some people say 10 days later by his son Joseph Kabila. And so this happens and he’s not officially president or becomes elected as president until 2006 of which he is then reelected in 2011. And so you have this series of presidents and rulers and power and this president that is in power right now, Joseph Kabila, he has been in the … they were supposed to have elections in 2016. Here we are in December of 2018, they still have not elections. And there’s definitely political instability surrounding this. Um, yeah. So the DRC is this large country with what I would call small pockets of development. So I’ll give a little bit of the, the difficult sides of the DRC, but also some of the more positive, but first you need to understand there is overall very poor infrastructure. There are no roads in between, in the interior of the country. People are out in the streets protesting. They want a new, a new president. They want a new election cycle. There’s distrust of the government right now, and then you have denial by the government that people are actually protesting and that people actually have been harmed over over many over the last few years in particular. Meanwhile, you have these armed groups — and I’m building up to why sexual violence is actually such an issue — and these armed groups are now being labeled as terrorists by the DRC government and they’re fighting for land, arms and precious resources and there are a couple of precious resources that everyone needs to understand. In particular, they’re tantalum, tin, tungsten and gold, and they are all found in things that you’ll be very familiar with — your laptop and your cell phone. So all of these minerals are used again to make cell phones and laptops, but they, the mines are what the military groups want to control. And so this is for sexual violence comes in, the groups perpetuate violence by, through sexual assault, which is just a horrific practice where they rape women, children and men of all ages. And this violence is really used as a tactic of war.
Beth Ann:7:52It tears apart communities, destroys families and it creates insecurity. And it’s, when I say it’s complex, it’s really a wild understatement, but sexual violence is really just persisting throughout DRC right now. And on top of all of this, you have an ebola crisis, which is really, really difficult. It’s not the first time it’s happened, however, it’s in a more populous area called Beni. And it’s really, really sad to say that military groups have even attacked the health workers there and there’s a lot of insecurity. So it’s difficult to address just sexual violence when there are all these complex layers of what’s happening with poor leadership, little economic development, a huge country with this wonderful mineral wealth and just little economic development. So these levels of sexual violence continue to persist and destroy families and it’s really to gain power over people and resources. Wow.
Kate:8:57Thanks for that. Really thorough background here. And then just add something else to the pot. Another complication. This is a podcast about food, and we’re a coffee company. What does coffee have to do with this? There are coffee farmers in the Congo. We source coffee from the Congo. What does that have to do with women and other people who have survived sexual violence? And is there any overlap between these groups?
Beth Ann:9:22Definitely. And thanks for asking. Sexual violence, is this really a widespread issue throughout Congo? But it’s really in other parts of the world as well. So we need to at least address that.
Beth Ann:9:35But it’s rampant in Congo again, using it as this tactic of war. So we work with the small farmer Co-op in eastern Congo. It’s on the shores of Lake Kivu, which also borders Rwanda. And a number of the women had been sexually assaulted. But historically there hasn’t been anywhere to go. So sexual assault has persisted for a long time. Um, and for people who live outside of larger areas like Goma or Bukavu in eastern Congo, there, there hasn’t been many places to go. However, in 1998, Dr. Denis Mukwege a gynecologist, established the Panzi Hospital and the hospital has become very well known for treating survivors of sexual based violence. And over the years Dr. Mukwege has treated thousands of people, thousands. It’s really, like I said, sad to say. Treating these survivors for sexual violence is a holistic process for them where they’re treating people both physically and mentally at the Panzi hospital. Uh, in terms of the overlap between where we buy our coffee, Bukavu is pretty far away from as the town of Minova, which is where SOPACDI is located. Um, and many of the coffee farmers are in the adjoining communities. And so for years we tried to figure out how, how to get the survivors from those communities some help, but it’s really far away. In 2014, maybe it was 2015, I don’t remember exactly. But the World Bank supported a project to build what they call One Stop Centers in different communities and these are really small clinics that are built in smaller towns in order to treat people that are affected by sexual sexually based violence, um, in that same holistic way, right? As, as the larger Panzi hospital. And this is where some of the farmers of SOPACDI live, they actually live in Bulenga. And so having a small clinic there has been a really important development. I’m on a lot of levels, I mean, but really the overlap is with one small farmer co op, I’m talking about that affects or is part of our coffee project. However, there are farmers throughout Congo and people are affected everywhere, all over Congo. So it’s not just farmers, it’s children, teachers and more. Um, and I think that the One Stop Center that’s been constructed in Bulenga has really helped to bring the farmers closer to the hospital, which I’ll talk about and I hope in a few minutes, um, and together with Equal Exchange in the same way. And I’ve been there to visit and I’ve been there and I’ve spent time with Dr. Bwema and the general manager from SOPACDI and so we’re creating these connections. Yeah.
Danielle R.:12:34So Beth Ann, can you talk a little bit about what kind of inspired the creation of the Congo coffee project and what has been the evolution of this project through the years?
Beth Ann:12:48It’s a great story actually, because, excuse me, I was in the Equal Exchange cafe in Boston and I was there with two — I’m a Coffee cupper by trade — and I was there with two coffee cuppers from Columbia. And I ran into Jonathan Rosenthal who’s one of the founders of Equal Exchange. And he said, you know, Beth Ann, have you ever do you, have you ever heard of Panzi Foundation? And I said, no, who is that? And he said, you know, they’re a really interesting organization, they’re doing advocacy work and in, in Congo, in Democratic Republic of Congo. And they’re looking for a product to tell their story, a private label product and to raise money for their programs. And it really sort of just happened. And serendipitously at the time I didn’t know anything about DRC. I’ve spent time in east Africa and my coffee work, mostly in Uganda but also in Ethiopia, but I didn’t know a lot about DRC. I didn’t know a lot about the issues around sexual violence or the Panzi hospital. And so I, over time as I started to learn more and more, I was, gosh, we’ve got to do something. How in tarnation will this work? Um, we’ve never done this sort of thing before. And so I was very lucky because I spent a lot of time with Tara Herman who was a representative for Panzi over many months to develop a coffee product. Um, we weren’t even buying coffee from the Congo at the time. So it was like, well, how can we actually make that connection?
Beth Ann:14:21In my mind I was working to make a product, but it was almost going a little backwards because I really wanted to figure out how to impact the lives of the coffee farmers on the ground. So I reached out to one of my friends, Richard Hyde, formerly of Twin Trading in the UK and asked him and talked to him and he said, you know, I know a group that you should contact and we should, we should connect to you. Um, and so over the years we’ve gotten to know the farmers and support them with technical assistance. As I mentioned, I’m a cupper by trade. And so I had spent some time working with their team to find a cupper to help them to build their quality. Um, and over time I would say pretty quickly we introduced a product which inevitably came, the, became the Congo coffee project.
Beth Ann:15:12Um, it was the first organic coffee in the US that was fair trade. Um, and I’m really proud of it. It has a beautiful design — our design team did it, props to them. Um, but I think the whole point of the product was to tell the story, right? What is the story, raise awareness and have impact. So we have impact, um, on the farmers by buying coffee at fair trade prices, um, at higher than fair trade prices, that’s for sure. Um, and then in addition to that, we are supporting the Panzi Foundation, so for every bag that we sell it, a, $1 goes into a fund and at the end of the year we collect all of the money or count all the money I should say, and then we send a check to Panzi and I’m proud to say that we’ve raised more than $80,000 with this project since inception, which was in 2011. So I feel like the evolution is continuing. I don’t think it’s done. I think that we’ve got a lot of work still to do. Absolutely. Always more work to do.
Danielle R.:16:22Can you, can you tell us a personal story that you have with maybe one of the women that kind of highlights the collaboration of Equal Exchange in the Panzi project?
Beth Ann:16:38Definitely. I think that there’s, there are many faces that come to mind. There’s this woman, Janet, who works in the nursery school, um, that just really, every time I see her she just has a big smile on her face and she just has a dramatic impact on me in my life, but the woman I think I’d like to highlight is known as Mama Zawadi, um, and Mama Zawadi is the director for the Maison Dorcas aftercare center and she is, um, this is a place where people go, survivors go to the aftercare center to heal and to rest they receive counseling, um, and —
Kate:17:22Is this part of the Panzi hospital?
Beth Ann:17:23This is part of the Panzi hospital. Yes. But she’s just this gentle soul with a giant heart. And I just connected with her immediately. Um, you know, she’s the mother of eight. She also happens to– I know, the mother of eight — but also she’s the sister of Dr. Denis Mukwege, the founder of Panzi and she’s a widow. She lost her husband a few years ago, which hit her pretty hard, but she told me “I need to be here. I need to be here for the woman.” Wow. Uh, the aftercare center itself is about 300 beds. Um, uh, but you can see this when you walk around. It’s a pretty overwhelming experience. Of course, I’m not in, in each of the rooms. Being there, my first time, was really overwhelming and Mama Zawadi was just very supportive and very direct. You know, I think people sort of walk on eggshells when they talk about sexual violence or, oh gosh, you know, how do you explain it? And she’s just direct and said, you know, “this woman was raped, this woman has AIDS. This child that is four years old was raped,” and it was just really overwhelming. But I feel like she was really supportive for me to, um, because she has this calming presence, really calming presence, which you can see as being really important.
Beth Ann:18:54The first time I went, uh, I had this idea because Lee Ann De Reus from, from Panzi Foundation USA had told me a little bit about the hospital and so I decided I was going to bring a big bag, a big suitcase of clothing for, for the kids. Um, and so I collected all of my son’s things that were too small and went and got some things from my nephew and I wasn’t quite sure how it would be received, you know, here, here comes this person that’s never been here with a bag of clothes and I was received with song and dance and it was really another piece of being overwhelmed during that same day. And so every year when I go, I always bring a bag of clothes in that bag of clothes started as a small suitcase and now it’s this giant suitcase that’s called the Wheely Beast. And I shove as much of it in there. The weight is the problem, but it’s always, it makes me feel so happy to pass along small things that, um, that, that while they can get clothesthere, they can get clothes there. But I’m passing along something that is meaningful to me. And she said if everyone in the world could have as big a big a, have a heart as you do, then we wouldn’t have the same level of problems. And that stuck with me. So she is very, very special to me.
Danielle R.:20:23Wow. She sounds so special. Thanks for telling us that story. That’s, that’s really nice. Can, can you talk specifically about maybe one of the women who has benefited from this project in particular with the Congo coffee project?
Beth Ann:20:43It’s hard to sort of pinpoint one woman, you know, survivors are there for us a short period of time and then they move on. So usually I don’t see the same faces which I consider a blessing. Um, but I do see the same staff, like Mama Zawadi. But when we first started the project, all of our funding was going toward the Maison Dorcas aftercare center and so specifically to support vocational training. So I think that’s the place where I’ve seen this impact. The center, you know, again, is this healing place. It’s an important refuge for survivors, but one really important thing that they try to do is give people the skills so that once they leave, um, or some type of a trade so that when they leave they can use it. Um, so that might be sewing, that might be weaving. Um, and this is all happening along with counseling and medical services and so those are, those are important things to, to leave with. Um, it’s a really holistic approach taking into account the physical and the mental, which I think I really appreciate. So I think it was probably my second or third visit, I saw these really gorgeous plastic woven bags and I bought one and I was thinking, how can I, how can I get these to the United States, could I sell them what if we could design them and sell them? What if we, there was an outlet? And so this became the Congo coffee bag, um, and it’s this beautiful woven bag that’s too black and white and they’re, they can be used to shopping bags, as baskets. And so what I love about this program, what is that every bag is there’s a woman earns $10. $5 of that is paid to her outright. $5 is kept, um, as part of a savings account so that when the woman leaves, she has a little pile of money, um, to leave with. So a savings. And I love that. Um, it is just a really — you know that someone was using that as healin. They were learning through weaving and then ultimately they sold it into the market. So for all those people out there that have bought one, now, you know, a little bit more about the story. Yeah. So that’s, that’s something that I feel like has had really good impact.
:23:18And in a lot of ways our funding has evolved as well. So in years past we’ve used that to support vocational training and we’ve decided we want to create a connection between the Bulenga clinic and where the funding goes now. So in 2016 we embarked on a new journey where we decided — now this is after consultation with the clinic, this is not my idea, this is what the clinic wanted — is, um, to build water tanks. Yeah, because the clinic is small. This One Stop Center is, it is a tiny clinic. It doesn’t have the services that it probably needs or the money to support it. So knowing that the farmers are in the same community and they need access to water, the idea was to take the money and use it to build a water tank and they did that and I was able to see that and you can see pictures on our website if you’re interested. So, and we’re working on that. I feel like that’s evolving and how it impacts each woman. The bag project continues and I feel like that will continue to impact women, um, in very specific ways.
Danielle R.:24:32Thanks. Thanks, Beth Ann. I feel like I can, I can really feel from you that you are really passionate about this work. Can you talk a little bit about what this means to you on a personal level
Beth Ann:24:48Without crying? I’ll try.
Danielle R.:24:51It’s okay. It’s part of it.
Beth Ann:24:54I’m a crier.
Danielle R.:24:58Me too. Not a shocker to you.
Kate:24:59You guys can’t see this, but we’re handing out tissues now.
Beth Ann:25:05It means so much to me. You know, I’ve traveled to DRC to work with coffee farmers, visit Panzi hospital, visit the clinic and Bulenga and I don’t think I quite understood the experience it would give me. I’ve traveled throughout the world and in my work and training and working with roasters and cuppers and quality training, but this has had a different level of impact, um, where you see human suffering but hope at the same time and I feel like there’s a, if we have to have hope, we, you always have to have hope and you always have to fight for what is right and this is a very deep and meaningful. This has been professionally a very, very meaningful and I’m personally very meaningful project for me.
Danielle R.:25:56That’s wonderful. And we really appreciate you doing this interview with us. I had done a webinar with Beth Ann and that was kind of how this idea came about and I just wanted to keep getting the word out about this project. I think it’s a really important project that Equal Exchange is involved in, um, how can, how can some of the folks listening beyond this podcast, right? What, what are some action steps that they can take and some good resources that folks can kind of stay connected to this story.
Beth Ann:26:29Well, you should get out your pen and paper. Write that one down. Write these down. Well let’s just start with a blog piece that I just wrote and it’s about our work. And there’s this, I’m not sure how many of you have heard, but in October we received news that Dr Mukwege, the founder of Panzi, is the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, which is
Beth Ann:26:56A round of applause — on so many levels well deserved, well deserved. He’s been up for the Nobel peace prize in years past. So for him to, to receive this as a very high honor, um, and well, well deserved. Um, when I learned the news, um, I wasn’t even expecting it. My husband was on a plane and he sent me a text and said, did you hear the news that he won that? And I couldn’t even believe it. I literally started crying because again, I am a crier, but I started to cry because it was so happy. So happy for him, for the survivors that have suffered for the survivors that have persevered for all the support for everyone out there listening right now for everyone at Equal Exchange and just really for him, for bringing and talking about sexual violence on the international stage for so long and having that acknowledgement I think is enormous and it’s especially important right now given the political situation, you know, that there’s a threat of not having free or fair elections on December 23rd of this month. And I think that that is a threat out there. And so one of my asks for you would be to say let’s get fair and free elections happening. There are no excuses as to why they haven’t happened for two years. The excuses put out by the government are just rubbish. It’s ridiculous and they don’t actually have any traction. And so we really need to put pressure there. I’d encourage you to learn more about DRC. So not just, um, at Equal Exchange, the Congo Coffee project and at Panzi and our work. Um, but there are other fantastic groups out there doing work. Um, there’s the Enough Project, there’s Steer Forward. There are others, um, and those are on our website too.
Beth Ann:28:53So buy the coffee. It is a plug, but I think it’s an important plug because you’re supporting our work and coffee does help to build the economy. So we’re talking about this poor infrastructure and these warring factions in this really complex political landscape. I think that this is something you can do is to buy a bag of coffee or buy a bag and give it to someone else. Um, and then the last thing — and there might be more things I think of when I get off of this podcast — is to support our Create Change campaign. We just launched it to raise additional money for the Bulenga clinic. Uh, our idea is that we have built these small tank water tanks, but we need to do so much more and it’s expensive, but we really want to put solar panels on clinic. We want to have renewable energy options and we want to have consistent, clean water that’s available throughout the community and to really be a model of what a great clinic can be. So I think that those are a few of the things you could do up. So if you forgot all of that and didn’t, write it down,
Kate:30:02we’ve got links that we’ll put right in the episode of this podcast. If you go to the podcast homepage, you’ll be able to find a place where you can take action on all of these suggested steps. I wanted to ask about Dr. Mukwege. It’s so exciting. The prizegiving is in December. So, and not only, I’m sure it’s gratifying for him to have his work recognized, but this brings the issue to a wider international audience. Have you met Dr. Mukwege, Beth Ann? Can you talk about your interactions with him?
Beth Ann:30:34It’s amazing. Every time I’m in DRC he’s not, and then he comes to the states and I’m not. I travel a lot for work. Um, so we’ve had very little time to connect and I think I, I’m sort of an ambassador and a champion on not just his behalf but on the behalf of Panzi Foundation USA, Mama Zawadi. So I have not had a lot of interaction with him. Um, but he’s very proud of the Congo coffee project. I know that. Um, and uh, that, so my connection, my physical connections have not been, have not been so many, but I, again, I feel like this is so powerful what he’s received in the Nobel peace prize alone and putting this work on the international stage when he received word, he was in surgery because he’s still an active surgeon. He’s not just a, he does go out and do a lot of speaking all over the world to talk about sexual violence and the issues in DRC. So he is not afraid to talk about the other issues. So this is another level of excitement and, and honor that I think that will definitely, I, I hope will bear more fruit where people are listening. Um, so my, my interactions are limited, but I think we should all feel very proud of the work that he does.
Kate:31:58Yeah. And thanks for telling his story. I have seen a picture of the two of you together. So I know it’s not a Batman/Bruce Wayne situation.
Beth Ann:32:07I went to, uh, the women for women international dinner in New York City a few years ago because we had not been able to connect and was able to meet him for not very long. It’s really hard to get him by himself. He’s a, he’s a very busy guy, so, and will be even more busy now.
Kate:32:26That’s good news. Yeah. Yeah.
Danielle R.:32:28Thanks Beth Ann. I would just say that, you know, what really had got to my heartstrings was, you know, after this webinar that we did with Beth Ann, just the scale of this problem, the systemic nature of it and just the stories of the women and the brutality that is experienced. I think that, you know, I would really encourage listeners out there to go learn more about this story and the human stories behind it because there is no way that you can not be moved by it. So thank. Thank you so much Beth Ann, for all the work that you do, it’s, it’s really, really important work in, um, we really appreciate you telling the story.
Beth Ann:33:08Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here and tell the story, so tell your friends.
Danielle R.:33:15Definitely tell all your friends about the podcast.
Kate:33:17Subscribe, share the episode. Thanks very much. Thank you.
Outro:33:25Thanks for listening to the stories behind our food. A podcast by Equal Exchange ake a worker owned cooperative. Love this episode. Please subscribe, rate and leave a review. Be sure to visit Equal Exchange.co op to join the conversation, purchase products and learn more about small scale farmers in the global supply chain. This episode was produced by Equal Exchange with hosts Kate Chess and Danielle Robidoux. Sound engineering provided by Gary Goodman. Join us next time for another edition of the stories behind our food.