Students at Olds College in Calgary, Canada are doing something really cool. They are taking part in an entrepreneurial project that gives them real work experience and a unique opportunity to assist people in the Dominican Republic. It’s called The Dominican Republic Coffee Project, and it was initially launched towards the end of 2012 and raised over $20,000 that first month.
The project follows a model of social entrepreneurship model, basically taking a regular business model and adding social ties. In this case, helping farmers and their children in the Dominican Republic. Acting director of the project, Toby Williams explains “So we’re taking the coffee from the Dominican, importing it here. Roasting it in Calgary and then selling it and ninety percent of the profits are going back to help the farmers and their kids.”
The students are getting a lot out of this project, as first year business student Laura Woodard explains “It’s a really good cause. It’s helping education in the Dominican which is really great and a lot of people like drinking coffee so it’s really a win-win situation.” Eight students and two faculty members currently actively run the organization. They also sponsor a Dominican Republic Scholarship fund for the worker’s children to attend school. “It’s very difficult for kids to finish grade eight and very, very difficult to go on to high school because that means going down the mountain to the community of Jarabacoa to go to high school and the families can’t afford it,” said Williams.
Williams, along with a group of supporters is returning this upcoming Thursday evening to plant coffee and take supplies. They do this regularly, and have been able to see how the coffee is grown first hand – shade grown and at high altitudes. “Met the coffee farmers who grow the coffees. Saw how it was grown. It’s grown on these steep slopes that are like black-diamond ski hills. It can’t be mechanized so it has to be done by hand and once you see that, and you see how hard it is to schlep the coffee beans done the mountain to the processing plant, you will never take coffee for granted again,” said Williams.
The coffee can be purchased at Bean Brokers Cappuccino Bar in the Olds College Bookstore, and also five co-op stores in Olds, Carstairs, Lacombe, and Red Deer, as well as online.