Conscious Coffee Project: Connecting Students to Ethical Brews

 

Globally consumed at the rate of two billion cups a day, coffee is the world’s second most traded commodity. The market pressures that result from this high demand can push producers to commit labor rights abuses as severe as human trafficking. This is a concern especially in regions affected by poverty, where vulnerable communities are more susceptible to exploitation. In order to minimize human rights violations within this industry, it is up to us, the consumers, to demand products that hail from a fair, transparent supply chain. We have the power and responsibility to hold enterprises accountable and call for a shift in labor practices.

That’s why I’m leading the Conscious Coffee Project. Sponsored by the Anti-Trafficking Coalition at Berkeley, Conscious Coffee is an effort to foster a supportive network of cafes near the UC Berkeley campus that sell ethically sourced coffee. We will feature this network on a website and app geared toward students, both of which will serve as informational tools while operating through a financial incentive– users who frequently shop within the network can earn rewards like a free cup of coffee from their favorite cafe

There is a perception that products with labels like Organic or Fair Trade are too expensive for the general population to afford, let alone college students who are scrambling just to afford Bay Area housing costs and overpriced textbooks. If the goal of ethically sourced products is to empower economically marginalized populations, shouldn’t they be accessible to consumers who also struggle financially? This irony inspired me to add the rewards system portion of the app. Not only do I want to provide Cal students with the information they need to make conscientious consumption choices, I want to give them the financial resources to make these choices viable.

Because human trafficking is such a huge, complex phenomenon, it can be difficult to figure out how to work toward its eradication in a meaningful way. My internship at Not For Sale this semester has taught me that it is not enough to throw money at a cause, trying to fix the problem after the damage has already been done. We must seek innovative solutions to prevent vulnerability to exploitative situations from taking root in the first place. As consumers and changemakers, our voices and minds are integral to the abolition movement. Together, through entrepreneurship, innovation, and technology, let’s stand up for our values and make a sustainable impact!

Behind the story

Behind the story

The first time I saw him, Tan was standing alone on a street staring into nothing. He was down the road from the Blue Dragon centre (Not For Sale Vietnam partners), and everything about him signaled a child in distress. His face showed no expression; his shoulders...

Leap to freedom

Leap to freedom

Hoa was not yet 17 when she was trafficked. How it happened is a very familiar story. She was facing hard times. Someone she knew offered to help. She left home thinking she was on her way to start a new job, only to find it was a trick. What happened next is even...

The Decision

The Decision

Tung’s early years had wonderful moments of joy. He has some very happy memories of his mother. They travelled together on holidays, and when she was sick he stayed with her at their home, nursing her through the long nights of her fever. When she died, Tung’s world...

Almost Impossible

Almost Impossible

Phuong disappeared 3 years ago. She was offered a chance to work in a restaurant in another town, and followed someone she thought was a friend. At the time, Phuong felt lucky. As a child, a terrible motorbike accident severed one of her legs, leaving her with a...

A Little Boy Found

A Little Boy Found

It was about a year ago that Dak first came to Not For Sale Vietnam partners Blue Dragon. His journey to Hanoi, where he met a social worker on the streets, is one of those incredible stories that could well be made into a film one day. He had run away from home in...

An Everyday Hero

An Everyday Hero

In coming weeks, Not For Sale Vietnam partners Blue Dragon will reach the milestone of 1,000 people rescued from slavery. Many people wonder exactly how we conduct these rescues. While we have to be careful about revealing operational information that might put our...

Meet Tyrina: Not For Sale Bay Area

As a newly single mother who had just left a toxic relationship, Tyrina moved across the country in order to find financial stability and was introduced to prostitution by a woman who had created an “ad” for her when she was unable to find work and was desperate to provide for herself and her daughter. Her vulnerability left her powerless and in perpetual danger and discomfort. Although she now  had financial security, she and her daughter’s safety was now at risk. She knew something needed to change.

Tyrina was afraid of being alone and again found herself in a dangerous relationship with a man who convinced her that if she became a prostitute, he would help provide for her and her child.   He also helped teach her how to advertise herself and her appearance better in a way that attracted more customers and ultimately brought in more money. Her relationship although comfortable at first  transitioned into a toxic, controlling, and manipulative one always with strings attached –- not far off from exploitation.

Luckily, Tyrina was able to escape trafficking as well as the relationship she had with her trafficker. However, because she no longer had a steady income, she began struggling again to find a job that would provide sufficiently enough for both her and her daughter. Tyrina found herself turning to illegal side jobs just to make ends meet.

It was when Tyrina had grown tired of constantly being in an unhealthy mix of “doing both right and wrong,” that she turned to Not For Sale’s Bay Area program where she met the project director, Darian. Darian acted as Tyrina’s counselor through encouraging her to do better for herself and her daughter as well as provided the resources for her to do so; from job training and support, to representing her in court, Darian and Tyrina’s relationship has extended two years and will last many more. Tyrina viewed the program as a safe haven for women, and she began bringing in other survivors who she knew felt stuck and needed help.

Today, with Not For Sale’s help, Tyrina has a steady job and is able to independently provide for her and her daughter. She has discovered through the Not For Sale program that she has a passion for helping people, specifically those who have been in similar situations to her own and hopes to one day attend school to become a counselor.

“I’m an example that no one is perfect. Change doesn’t happen overnight. You have to take the steps to be better. I’ve done things I’m not proud of, and I’ve done great things. It’s about bettering myself and striving to be better,” Tyrina said.

Not For Sale is proud of Tyrina’s strength and drive that enabled her to rise above her circumstances. Tyrina is a great role model not only to her daughter, but to women everywhere.

#SheInspiresMe #FearlessFriday