For young Hondurans, gangs are a constant threat. Joining one may seem like the only option for survival. Last year, at Kenco, we started a project to make a difference.
We offer young people a chance of a better life, by training them to be independent coffee farmers with the skills to grow great quality beans. The first students have completed their year-long course. They’re now building businesses of their own, backed by funding from Kenco.
In 2016, Kenco are doing the same for a whole new set of students. Once again, we’re teaching them all they need to know to become coffee farmers – skilled growers, producing the finest beans.
One day, after taking her children to school, 28-year-old Julia was robbed and almost raped by a local gang member. Julia sees the program as a blessing – a way out of her dangerous neighbourhood where businesses are forced to pay extortion to gangs. While she says it’s hard to leave her two sons during the week to study, she’s determined to start her own coffee business producing quality beans and making a better life for her children.
Anthony’s mother died several years ago and he hasn’t seen his father since he was a small child. Now aged 24, he lives with his brothers but the neighbourhood is dangerous – he’s been robbed several times – and he has always struggled to find regular work. After graduating, he wants to use the new skills he’s learnt to start a coffee shop using only the finest beans and turn it into a business he can share with his family.
Just 19 years old, Phillipe is young and ambitious. While some of his former school friends have joined gangs, Phillipe is determined to start a successful farm, growing great tasting coffee beans, providing help and support for his family. He likes the way his new instructors are giving him the one-on-one time needed to help him reach his goal. He sees the programme as a wonderful opportunity to learn new things and improve his skills.
At age 19, Leonardo was threatened with death by a gang member. Since then, he’s moved away and been working as a farm labourer. He sees the course as an ‘extraordinary’ chance to produce equally extraordinary coffee on a farm of his own. He wants to build a better life for his family and says, “I never thought I’d have the opportunity to learn these things.”
Three years ago, Lucas was shot twice by a local gang member. He knows he was lucky to survive, but now aged 20, he finds it hard to hold down jobs or build relationships. Lucas says “The Kenco programme is an unbelievable opportunity for us and I am thankful to be a part of this”. He’s loving the opportunity of learning the expertise and life-skills needed to build a better future. He aims to start a successful coffee farm growing coffee beans he can be truly proud of.
Two years ago, Jessica was looking down the barrel of a gun as a gang robbed the bus she was on. Now aged 22, she feels safe and respected as a woman, learning the skills to run a business and getting emotional support to help put the past behind her. Her dream is to provide a safe future for her daughter and produce really outstanding coffee. “I intend to use all the knowledge and skills we are receiving at the programme to make this happen”, she says.
When Bruno tried emigrating to the USA, he was deported. Back home, working alongside his father and brothers in the fields, he was being paid nothing at all. For Bruno, it was no kind of life. Now Coffee Vs Gangs is giving 18 year old Bruno the expertise and technical skills needed to start a profitable business growing quality coffee beans that will take care of his family in the years to come.
Amanda, 22, is a single mum living with her mother, three brothers, sister-in-law and nephew. She’s worked in the past as a house maid and nanny, but hasn’t had a job for a while. She says the program is “the biggest blessing that I have ever received in my life”. She’s really enjoying the course, appreciates the emotional support it provides and aims to run her own quality coffee business in the future.
22 year old Sofia is a single mum whose quest for work has taken her as far as the USA, but she’s struggled to find work recently. Grateful to be selected for the program, she says she’s loving the challenge of the business lessons. She once thought she would never be capable of starting a business, but now looks forward to becoming well-known in her area for producing high quality coffee.
With a young son to care for, 22 year old Sergio was desperate for a job. He’s already got some experience in agriculture, so Coffee Vs Gangs is the ideal way forward. He’s enjoying the practical aspects of the course (learning how to grow beans with fabulous aroma and taste) together with the support that it provides for his young family. He wants to make sure his son doesn’t have to struggle the way he has had to.
Andrea is 25 and a single mum. Frustrated by a lack of jobs, she moved away to find work and left her son with her mother. But when the boy got sick, she moved back to care for him. Now she’s on the programme, she’s found the business training has helped her to believe in herself. She’s learning how to grow the very best coffee beans and says, “After I complete the programme, I want to run my own coffee farm and make sure that my child never lacks food or medicine”.
Cristian’s father died before he was even born and his mother was left to raise four sons on her own. It was a tough upbringing that has left Cristian shy and lacking in confidence. That’s all beginning to change. These days, 22 year old Cristian is developing new social skills along with the expertise that could help him build a successful business as an entrepreneur, serving distinctive, delicious coffee. He says, “I am thankful with God and with Kenco for having this opportunity”.
Jorge’s father is a security guard, so he knows the risks from local gangs only too well. His brothers have been threatened too. So far, they’ve managed to stay safe but Jorge, 25, has seized the opportunity to move on and build a new life for himself producing the best coffee he possibly can. For Jorge, the psychology sessions have been almost as helpful as the business lessons, helping become less shy and insecure.
David was recently robbed by a local gang. He feels lucky to have escaped unharmed, and the experience has only made him more determined to escape his dangerous neighbourhood. As David’s father is very old, the family depend on him and two of his brothers for money. He says becoming a successful entrepreneur, recognised for offering the very finest coffee, will give both him and his family a better quality of life.
Emilio’s mother walked out of the family home when he was still a child. The eldest of eight boys, he wants to help his father but never found full time work. Now, at the age of 20, he’s building on his natural self-confidence and determination to make the most of his place on the programme. He is focussed on becoming an entrepreneur, skilled in growing quality coffee beans.
César, 20, reckons Coffee Vs Gangs has been a real life saver for him. He’s been mugged by gang members and frustrated by the lack of jobs. His brother Antonio was a student last year and this has inspired César to follow in his footsteps. He’s determined to make the most of this opportunity and is ambitious to produce coffee that’s celebrated for its good taste. He says, “I really hope that I get my own coffee farm up and running”.
18 year old Alfredo recently became a father, so he’s keen to build a safe and happy future for his new family. He has spent some time working in a small clothing store but couldn’t afford to leave the old family home. Now he looks forward to getting married, running his own farm and selling quality coffee beans to Kenco.
Gabriela, 20, used to make tortillas at home that her mum would go out and sell. Sometimes their little business has been threatened by gangs. Her mother also earns money as a housekeeper and her father is a construction worker. For Gabriela, the programme is a chance to escape the threats and start a business of her own, getting involved with coffee that her customers will love. It will allow her to “have a better future with my family”, she says.
19 year old Nicolás comes from a very poor family in an area notorious for gangs. He says, thankfully, he’s only been robbed once. Although his father works in the fields and his mother is a housekeeper, money has always been in short supply. He sees the programme as a way to gain his independence - running his own successful coffee business and using all his skills to grow the finest beans.
Just 17 years old, Eduardo is the youngest member of the programme and has always lived with his parents. He has only limited experience of work – helping his father grow coffee and other crops – but is now focussed on his studies. After graduation, he looks forward to building a quality coffee business that creates jobs in the local community as well as providing for his family.
The class of 2015 is the first set of Coffee vs Gangs' students. In 2014, Kenco started Coffee vs Gangs and turned a group of 20 young people into the coffee makers of the future. Watch the video to meet them.
On a return trip to Honduras to the Coffee vs Gangs project, we find a new group of students eager to make their mark in the world.Read the full article