One of the reasons I started Rwanda Bean Company was to help farmers earn fair wages and create a sustainable, equitable community. It’s been five years since then and at the end of each year I reflect on what I've done; Did I reach my goal? What did I accomplish? Did I do what I should have done? Trust me, it's never easy.
When you take a moment to reflect, you find that what you have done is only a drop of water in the ocean.
I usually travel to Rwanda at least once a year and talk to the farmers, assessing what more we can do to connect to this rapidly growing international coffee market. There are always changes to be made, and responding quickly is what gives us the advantage.
When I’m back in Rwanda I often see young kids, between three and five years old, in the country-side just wandering in the streets and running between farm fields.
As someone who grew up in this developing country, I understand that some kids do not have access to basic needs. Some have better schooling than others, some don’t have access to school at all, for various reasons.
Both the community and the government are working hard to make changes, but it's not nearly fast enough. In order to make this happen quickly, sustainably, and effectively, it will require many people coming together. That’s where I’d like to think Rwanda Bean comes in.
When I was growing up, one of the most pervasive things I heard my parents talk about was education. It has been central and core to my growth and journey, and as I say it often,
Education and compassion have the power to create richer and fuller lives, not just financially, but rich in terms of quality of life.
Personally, I have been fortunate to witness this come to fruition. I have also had the opportunity to be on the receiving end of this education. Without it, I doubt Rwanda Bean would have ever happened. If I didn’t have opportunity to go to school, get tuition and receive my scholarship, I would not be where I am today.
When I travel back home and see these children, I start thinking to myself: What can I do? How can I give them the opportunities that I have been given? Could I help pay tuition for one or two kids… But that is not a long term solution.
In Rwanda, they have a system that provides this necessity with elementary schools. Kids have to walk many miles to school, but at least they have access to this fundamental need and foundation of education.
While I am grateful that Rwandans have an incredible government that is invested in education and subsidizing various programs, I have realized that this starts between the ages of three and six years old. From the time when the child is very young (baby), till when they are three or six, the child has to stay with their parents 24/7.
This is an incredibly crucial time for both the parent and child to get an education. This is a time, especially in rural areas, where one cannot afford to miss work for years. It is also a vital learning stage for these young children, but when there are no options, the child has to go to the fields with the parents.
That thought has kept me awake many nights, and I've come to the conclusion that the way to bridge this gap--the answer-- lies in coffee.
I know it’s a big idea, but I would like to build a kindergarten school within the rural communities, starting with the communities of farmers that I work with. We will begin with the very community who worked so hard and effortlessly to provide us with the coffee for this season, Gisagara, Southern Province, Rwanda.
I believe in the philosophy of one step at a time. With that in mind, we decided to create a special collection of items that we can sell in store and online, and use 100% of the profits to build the kindergarten.