Monday 30 November 2009

What if I didn't drink coffee?

Representing my church I attended the AGM today of Christian Aid (Ireland). The event was held at Bewley's Hotel near Dublin Airport. For those outside of Ireland, Bewley's is a well established and historical purveyor of tea and coffee in Ireland. I guess they also purvey guest rooms too. But it's not Bewley's that I want to talk about - though it is coffee related.

Christian Aid is an international development organisation who raise funds and help local churches connect with vital projects in the developing world. I noted down what the Chairperson said was the driving motivation behind Christian Aid: "To eradicate absolute poverty because absolute poverty is an affront to God."

One speaker highlighted a recent trip to Ethiopia - the home of coffee. His presentation included the story of a small group of women who pooled some money in order to give micro-loans to the local residents in order for them to develop some sort of livelihood. The way this collective of about a dozen women initially raised some capital was through coffee. Actually through not drinking coffee.

Part of the tradition for many in rural Ethiopia is the drinking of coffee in a ritualized way. Typically this coffee ritual takes place three times a day. However, these ladies for-goed one ritual each day and pooled the saved money instead - about five cents each. Five cents!!

You and I wouldn't think twice about such a trivial amount of money, but once enough had been collected fair loans could be made. So the story continued:

A woman takes out a small loan from the group and buys a large bag of corn and a large can of kerosene. These then she decants into small vessels and sells on to others at a small profit. From that profit she buys a goat which she milks for extra income. Her newly earned money is then used to buy another goat which she breeds with the original and several months later the goat gives birth to two more. These new goats are sold for a decent enough amount of money to start to give hope for this woman and her life is transformed. All for just skipping a coffee and investing five cents. It was a powerful lesson and one that, as I write this now, causes me to think about what I could do if I skipped the occasional coffee and did something else with the money.


RJ said...

like prayer it is all about the little stuff, yes? keep us posted about how this shakes out cuz it might bring blessings never imagined. advent prayers and love

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