International service-learning trips originating at The Ohio State University are renowned for the positive experiences they provide to undergraduates and those they seek to serve. Thanks to funding from Greg Ubert, president of Crimson Cup Coffee & Tea, a Columbus based roasting company and coffeehouse, five Ohio State students will trek to a remote farming village of El Socorro de la Penita, Honduras, where the coffee served on campus is grown.
The goal of the service trip is to grow relationships and contribute to sustainable solutions for the farming poor.
“I’m particularly excited about this trip because it offers a 360 degree perspective on how coffee affects lives,” said Zia Ahmed, Senior Director, Student Life Dining Services at Ohio State. “I see this trip as the beginning of a long-term relationship among the students who engage in the program and the coffee farmers, smallholders, we support by purchasing their coffee and serving it on campus.”
Karli Lane, an Ohio State freshman who will be making the trip said, “My teammates and I are studying agriculture and share the goal of living like global citizens. We know this trip is going to stretch us in every way, but we’re up for that.”
Lane and her teammates depart on May 7, 2013, and will be accompanied by Ahmed and Ubert during the 5-day trip.
Ubert tapped Stephan Erkelens, president of AXIOM Coffee Ventures, to assist in planning the trip. AXIOM is active in coffee communities in several countries and works with NGOs, coffee industry partners and social impact investors to deliver a market-based pathway out of poverty for smallholder families.
“When systems are fragmented and disconnected, as they are in the regions where we work, it traps smallholder communities in a cycle of poverty, despite the extraordinary quality of their coffee,” said Erkelens, who can trace his coffee roots to the 1930's and his grandfather’s coffee business. “From the students we empower, to the NGO’s and coffee industry partners we work with, the path to economic sustainability for the poor begins with a relationship”.
Crimson Cup has a long history of working directly with smallholders to improve their lives, “By partnering with AXIOM Coffee Ventures, which has significant expertise as well as established and trusted on-the-ground relationships with coffee smallholder communities, we’ve been able to work closely with and support smallholder communities,” said Ubert, who recently made a trip with Erkelens to formally inaugurate a computer lab funded by Crimson Cup and donated to the community's elementary school. Like Ohio State University’s focus on opportunities that empower connections, explore the world, and celebrate diversity, Ubert wanted to provide similar opportunities for the children of coffee farmers.
The OSU team will be visiting these same students and their classroom, where Ubert and Erkelens will challenge them on developing a program to improve school attendance, and significantly increase the numbers of students attending high-school. “Sponsoring the first OSU team to origin just seemed like the natural next step in widening our efforts to engage others in making an impact in the lives of poor coffee farmers," stated Ubert.