Thursday, August 21, 2014

Ultra run, art show, film to support Congo charity

OnTheGroundGlobal.org
SEACREST — Morning coffee was a special Congo blend as a crowd gathered in the offices of Amavida Coffee & Tea in Seacrest to hear about the company’s plans to aid destitute women in the region where the coffee originated.

“We’re hosting a 40-mile ultra run with On TheGround Global to raise funds for Project Congo, a gender equality and women’s empowerment initiative,” explained Casey Tindell-Trejo, Amavida’s marketing coordinator, in the lead-up to the meeting.

Amavida has long been associated with programs to educate and improve the quality of life of the coffee farmers with whom the company deals directly. Most of these have been in concert with On the Ground, a global charity founded by Chris Treter of Higher Grounds Trading Co.

Amavida has participated in On The Ground projects in Chiapas, Mexico, and Ethiopia, helping to provide potable water, financial training, and micro loans to those living in desperate conditions.

“We have the ability to take a very little amount of capital and do incredible stuff, see real impacts,” Treter said during a conference call. “We put in water projects (at Chiapas) at one-fifth the cost of what the Mexican government could do. This is real stuff. It works. It’s effective.”

The next projects on the agenda involve helping farmers and families in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where a constant state of war has lingered for decades, and where women — mostly widows — suffer the hardships. Several public events will take place locally to raise awareness and funds.

“The goal is to educate our community about what is going on abroad, and how we’re doing that through coffee — helping to create sustainable communities,” said Dan Bailey, founder and owner of Amavida.

The events planned through the fall and into the new year will include:

l Solstice Run: From sunrise to sunset Dec. 21, run 40 miles along Scenic 30A and nature trails around the towns to support Project Congo initiatives. No registration fees will be charged; instead, runners are asked to solicit pledges. Details: WinterSolsticeRun.org

Running a 5K for charity is laudable, Treter said, but “when you run 40 miles, you’re really bringing attention to something else.” In this case, he said, “Running is a bridge that provides an opportunity for people to pay attention to something that’s extremely important.”

l Paddle Run: Tentatively scheduled for Spring 2015, this will be a paddleboard event set on the coastal dune lakes of 30A.

l Project Congo Coffee: Amavida is bagging and selling a special blend of coffee grown in Congo; $5 per bag sold goes to Project Congo; each bag has photos from the region shot by Treter. Details: Amavida.com

l Art Show: Musician Cody Copeland is organizing an exhibit that will feature art created by locals on the theme of gender equality. (Date and location to be determined.)

l Screening “Virunga”: Amavida will host screenings of a documentary film about the Virunga National Park, one of the most bio-diverse locations on the planet, and home to the last of the mountain gorillas. (Dates and locations to be announced.) Park rangers protect this UNESCO world heritage site from armed militia, poachers and the dark corporate forces struggling to control Congo’s rich natural resources.

Treter, who has run ultra marathons for charity across Ethiopia, organized a Summer Solstice run in Travers City, Mich., that raised $30,000 for Project Congo. The money is being used at the coffee cooperative to boost education in gender equality and teach native women business skills. 

The money will also allow for micro-loans so the women can fund a business, raising their profile in their community.

The goal for Amavida’s Project Congo events is to raise $100,000.

On the Ground points to Zawadi Kaleura as an example of a real person the project will aid. Her husband drowned trying to cross a lake to Rwanda so he could buy sheet metal for the roof of their hut. Now she’s raising four boys in a region where constant conflict has destroyed the economy and killed nearly 6 million people.

Zawadi is a first year member of the Muungano coffee cooperative, but has only 700 trees from which she can harvest beans — not nearly enough to provide enough income to support her family.

Project Congo will provide a Gender Action Learning system and series of workshops for the area’s women to learn leadership, business and accounting skills, as well as micro-loans to help generate their own businesses and begin lifting themselves out of poverty. She said a micro-loan would allow her to buy and sell palm oil and soft drinks, making enough profit to maintain her home and send her children to school.

“If we could see the reality of our neighbors’ lives, we would take care of them — because we are a caring people,” Treter said.


Peace

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