Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Laurelhurst Business, Coffee Rwanda, Helping Poor People

"One bag, a world of difference" and "Coffee of the people, by the people and for the people" are the tag lines for Laurelhurst resident, Dr. Karl Weyrauch's business, Coffee Rwanda, of which he is the Founder and Medical Director.

Dr. Karl told us that Coffee Rwanda is "the only social entrepreneuship coffee company in Laurelhurst." It is an all volunteer organization aimed at keeping expenses at a minimum in order to benefit health and development work and investing in the future of the poorest people in Rwanda, the Batwa Pygmies, now called the "Community of Potters" who've been "left behind by history and their neighbors."

The website says that "Rwanda has gone from a complete unknown in the specialty coffee industry to becoming the source of some of the finest coffees in East Africa. Now, with the help of Coffee Rwanda, you can help save endangered people while enjoying some of the best coffee in the world!"

Dr. Karl set up the  non-profit Pygmy Survival Alliance, coordinated by an international team of volunteers that ensures all profits, after expenses, are donated for the reconstruction and development of Rwanda. The  nonprofit organization, "connects pygmy villages in Rwanda with information, leadership, survival and health resources to enable them to transform their health and welfare," including reducing the death rates among the Batwa mothers and children, the website says. "No other coffee company can say the same."

Dr. Karl told us he started the company in 2007 after returning from Rwanda on a Public Health teaching trip. He says, "In trying to get from Gisenyi to Cyangugu, we rented a boat ride from a hotel agent. Only when we were dropped off in the headquarters of the COOPAC coffee cooperative did we realize that the boat belonged to the coffee cooperative and was used to ferry raw coffee beans from the washing station to the warehouse. We sat drinking coffee with the Cooperative's president and learned about how coffee in Rwanda has become a vehicle of reconciliation.

"The widows of men killed in the genocide sit side by side with women whose husbands were imprisoned for their role in the killings. Together, the women would chat and heal. Just down the street from where we were sitting we could see the women gathered and working in hamony.

"When we learned that the coffee was distributed in France and Switzerland but not the USA, we realized that it's high quality and low availability would make it a valuable commodity in the USA, and a good way to raise funds for the public health work we were doing with the Batwa Pygmies of Rwanda...literally trying to help them survive.  I started the charity, Pygmy Surival Alliance to support the health and development work with the Batwa and focussed Coffee Rwanda as a 'social entrepreneurship' to donating all profits, after expenses, to work with the pygmies."

The coffee is sold on-line and  through local distrributors, such as Karl's home in Laurelhurst. "The coffees are wonderfully sweet, either bright with clear citric characteristics, or plush and full of berry and chocolate like flavors," the website says.

Karl told us that many people contact him directly for a custom-roasted shipment. He said his company also provides coffee for churches and colleges used for fundraising events. Coffee Rwanda is available for educational presentations to schools, churches, community groups, professional organizations and other interested parties.

You can learn more about Coffee Rwanda here and the Pygmy Survival Alliance here. To contact Dr. Karl email him at karl@coffeerwanda.com.

Coffee and special gift bags can be purchased here. "Not only does the coffee taste great, but every pound of coffee sold directly helps Rwanda's people. Rwanda's ambassador to the United States, Zac Nsenga, said 'The more you consume coffee from Rwanda, the more you give Rwanda hope. It's the quality and the story behind it that makes it special,' the website says.

"From the sale of one bag of coffee, we can provide: 3 pairs of shoes for pygmy children; or health insurance in Rwanda for 2 people for 1 year; or nutritional support for one child with malnutririon for 3 months; or a shovel to dig farming terraces to increase food production in the village."

To make a donation go here.

Dr. Karl is currently in Kigali helping their Pygmy village build 60 houses.

Dr. Karl with an elder in a Pygmy village 

Mr. and Mrs. Gasingwa, Yowasi (chief of Bwiza) 

Coffee trees near Lake Kivu

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your wonderful, generous work.