thanks for joining me for this interview. I have prepared a couple of questions for you. I guess not all coffee lovers in Germany have heard about the Coffeekids organization you support. But first of all, let us know how you find your way to coffee kids, how long have you been supporting coffee kids.
Thanks for featuring us! I’ve been working with Coffee Kids for more than two years. Before that I served for two years as a marketing consultant in Guatemala with a small cooperative near Huehuetenango. The work with Coffee Kids is a great way to continue my involvement with Latin America.
I also love the nuanced view that Coffee Kids brings to the industry. We work in coffee-farming communities, but our work has nothing to do with coffee. We support programs that create more sustainable communities. Many families are completely dependent on coffee and that income only comes once a year. If they have options outside coffee, they can continue farming without betting their lives on the harvest. Quality coffee comes from strong, stable communities.
Do you support coffee kids full time and how big is the organization at all?
I work full time at Coffee Kids as communications manager. We have four full time and one part time staff at our main office in Santa Fe, NM, USA; two full time program staff in our international office in Oaxaca, Mexico; and a part time fundraiser in the UK. Our annual budget is under USD$1 million
Can u give us a little introduction on how long it exists, your objectives, the accomplishments of the organization and of course you?
In 1988, Bill Fishbein, a coffee shop owner from Providence, R.I., USA, visited coffee-farming families in Guatemala. When he saw the conditions they confront every day – lack of access to health care, few educational opportunities, few economic opportunities, malnourishment – he became very concerned. He realized that coffee was not as generous to the people growing as it was to coffee businesses. But he also saw the spirit of the people and the strong cohesiveness in their communities. When he returned to the US, he vowed that he could not sell another pound of coffee until he did something to help these families.
The way we work has changed since we began, but the vision of helping coffee-farming families improve their quality of life has remained the same.
What are the main objectives for your organization in 2010?
Each year our program staff sifts through a variety of proposals to select the organizations that we support. During 2009-2010, we will work with 16 groups in five countries. They will implement 25 different projects, everything from biodiesel and organic gardening to microcredit and scholarships. The four primary program areas we support are microcredit and economic diversification, health awareness, education, and food security.We pride ourselves on providing long term support. In order to see real change, it’s necessary to provide support that goes beyond deadlines. Microcredit is a good example. In many of the communities where we work, saving money is a concept many have never explored. When every dollar goes to helping your family survive, it’s tough to think about the future. Our partner Self-Managed Development (AUGE) in Veracruz, Mexico, (a partner since 1995) has been managing a microcredit program called Groups of Women Saving in Solidarity (GMAS). The program provides low interest loans, but also puts great emphasis on saving money and financial literacy.
You write on your website, that you want to improve the quality of their life. Can u give me some past or current examples?The program began with about 100 women and $0 saved. Today there are over 4,000 women, men and children involved and they have collectively saved over $700,000. This is used as a rotating capital to provide people with loans for small business ventures. Some women start a restaurant, another person may buy supplies for their farm or they may take a loan to buy school supplies. A culture of savings has grown in many of these communities and people have gained confidence that they can make plans for the future and put their ideas into action. But that kind of change takes time to develop.
This year, we’re proud to announce our last year of funding for the Rural Children’s Education Foundation (FHC), our partner in Costa Rica. We have worked with this group since 1996 and they have made education possible for thousands of children. Over the past two years, FHC has created an innovative system to make their scholarship project completely self-sustaining. The organization leverages government loans to provide scholarships and has created a trust to provide guarantees on the loans.
The model used by FHC has been very successful and they have even helped us set up a similar program in Nicaragua. This is actually another important aspect of our work. We encourage sharing between our partners and regularly fund exchanges between the groups so they can learn from each other. Last year, representatives from AUGE traveled with us to visit our partner in Chajul, Guatemala, where a women’s group is setting up a microcredit program.
What is specifically the biggest need for the families you support?
For many coffee farmers, coffee is all they have to support their families. They tell us that they need alternatives to help them provide for their families year round. The need varies by community, which is why we listen to them and what they want to do and help put that vision into action.
What are the biggest projects lying ahead of you? Can Gemany help?
Each year we announce our partners in July. This year we will work with 16 organizations in five countries (Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Peru). The past year has been tough on everyone financially, but we are a donor-supported organization. Our funding comes from our generous members who range from businesses like DaVinci Gourmet, who donates a portion of every bottle of syrup sold, to the coffee aficionado who recognizes the need in coffee-farming communities. Every donation, no matter how small, helps.
If you can’t donate, you can help by encouraging your favorite coffee shop to join Coffee Kids or posting a blog or just letting others know about the issues. Fairtrade or not, coffee is not enough for most coffee-farming families.
Coffeekids is a non-profit organization, but it still creates cost to keep the business running. If people donate money to your organization, what do you think how much money will ultimately end up being donated to the families? Can u give us a % on this?
The percentage varies year to year, but an average of 75% of all donations go to programs. Last year we were at 78%. We include a breakdown of this information each year in our annual report, which can be found here http://www.coffeekids.org/aboutus/financials/
Are there any other ways to donate?
From Germany, the best way to donate would be through our Web site at http://www.coffeekids.org/donate. If you would like to set up a commercial agreement with a portion of proceeds from the sale of a product benefits Coffee Kids, you can contact us by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I remember seeing you at the Coffeena in Cologne. How did you find the exhibition and are you happy with your results?
Our Executive Director Carolyn Fairman attended and she did mention that she was extremely pleased with the results of the convention. One of our goals was to create more awareness of Coffee Kids and what people can do. Each year, people seem to become more interested and really learn how important our community support is to the sustainability of the coffee industry.
Are there any plans to extend the support of Latin-American support to other coffee regions?
We would like to expand to other coffee regions, but we are focused on developing well-run programs before expanding to other continents. Two years ago, we began working with our first partner in Peru and this year we are proud to be working with four organizations.
How is coffee kids represented in Europe?
We have a registered UK charity, a part time Development Liaison Heather Ferraro (email@example.com) and we receive a lot of help from Michael Segal (firstname.lastname@example.org) of SCAE, who serves on our board there.
What is your success in Germany so far? Are you properly represented here in Germany? Who can be contacted here if there are questions?
We have donors in Germany and many friends from the shows we attend. While we don’t have formal representation in the country, people can contact our Development Liaison Heather Ferraro (email@example.com) with questions on how to get involved. People should also feel free to contact us here at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Which companies in Germany already support your organization and how? Can u disclose the donations?
People can search our members database at http://www.coffeekids.org/youcanhelp/support-our-supporters/.
Currently we have a few members from Germany, including:
Chicco di Caffe in Oberhaching
International food & Beverage Import GMBH in Berlin
Langen Kaffee in Medebach,
Market Grounds in Hamburg,
Rubens Kaffee in Essen-Rüttenscheid.
We would love to see more involvement there.
Corporate Social Responsibility is a growing topic also in Germany. Companies want to give something back to the community. Would you agree that there is a growing commitment from the companies in the coffee industry or is still very much at the beginning of it. What are your main problems in getting more companies to join?
I think specialty coffee is at the vanguard of the CSR movement and has been instrumental in helping spread the idea to other industries. The fact that an organization like Coffee Kids is so well supported is a testament to the people who understand that the future of coffee depends on the people producing the beans. There is still a long way to go, but every effort helps.
One of the challenges we face is getting companies and individuals to understand the importance of supporting economic diversity in communities, the idea that families need alternatives to coffee in order to continue producing quality coffee. But thanks to people like you and many others, we are getting our message out there and it is being heard.
Thanks for the interesting conversation. I appreciate your time. Let´s stay in touch.