Forging New Grounds Tomorrow Among Haitian Partners

By: Jessie Badach Hubert ‘15M, Director, Center for Social Concerns

Part of the work of the Center for Social Concerns is walking with students who ask the question, “How can I make a real difference in the world?” Answering that question usually takes time. To explore that sustainable social change making is not often the result of one person; it is the product of mutual partnerships.

Change-making of this type is hard to measure on a short timeline. But every now and then, we have the blessing of bearing witness to the culmination of many years of commitment. This is why the campus-wide launch of Neg Mawon coffee this spring is such a cause for celebration. 

tudents show their support of a thriving global parntership with Just Haiti.

Students show their support of a thriving global parntership with Just Haiti. 

In Spring 2016, the CSC built a week-long Alternative Break Service Trip (ABST) program in collaboration with Just Haiti, an organization that markets Haitian coffee to United States consumers. The ABST participants were hosted by President Kim Lamberty. With Lamberty’s expertise and on-the-ground wisdom, the CSC knew it wanted to share in the organization’s “fair trade plus” economic mission to help the Haitian people help themselves.

Through the ABST, students studied the economics of fair trade coffee and the Catholic Relief Services model of Integral Human Development. Students returned to campus impassioned to find ways to support the economic development and self-sufficiency of the farmers who had hosted them.

Neg Mawon coffee is displayed in the Nash Library as students share their ABST experience.

Neg Mawon coffee is displayed in the Nash Library as students share their ABST experience. 

In Fall 2016, Hurricane Matthew destroyed nearly all the homes and crops of coffee growers from the KDB cooperative that hosted the group. With the support of generous donors, Gannon was able to purchase an order of Just Haiti coffee, which was sold to members of the Gannon community. This purchase showed support to the community in a particular time of need.

Jack Barton, CEO of Out of the Grey Coffee and tenant at Gannon’s Erie Technology Incubator at the time, developed a special roast for the coffee, named after the statue Neg Mawon in Port-au-Prince that means “The Free Man Can Never Be Destroyed.” Having had a taste of raising awareness and making a real-world impact, the students involved in this partnership were hungry for a continued relationship with Just Haiti.

Just Haiti welcomed Gannon ABSTs again in 2017 and 2018. After many exploratory conversations with creative partners, a team was assembled for the sustainable launch and sales of Neg Mawon in Metz retail locations across Gannon’s Erie campus. Since the introduction of Neg Mawon coffee in each of the campus’s seven retail outlets, it has quickly become the number-one seller.

“Being a part of the process of integrating Just Haiti coffee on Gannon’s campus has been a heart-filling experience because it has allowed me to take the knowledge and love that I gained in Haiti and apply it to my campus community around me.”

Lamberty explained Gannon’s strategic role in helping advance Just Haiti’s mission. “We accompany Gannon students to Haiti, assist in the preparation and the debriefing and work to empower students to bring what they learned back to campus. Gannon, by purchasing and selling our coffee, is part of achieving the goals of the coffee growers we accompany,” she said.

Every purchase of a cup of Neg Mawon goes directly back to the more than 600 families connected to the work of Just Haiti, as well as countless more families who benefit from the job creation and economic development in the seven cities connected to their work.

Student Melissa Bronder helped cultivate the partnership between Just Haiti and Gannon. “Being a part of the process of integrating Just Haiti coffee on Gannon’s campus has been a heart-filling experience because it has allowed me to take the knowledge and love that I gained in Haiti and apply it to my campus community around me,” she said.

This story illustrates the power of giving and resulting impact that occurs in the blurred lines between the giver and receiver. Reflecting on the CSC’s beginnings, we joyfully celebrate those who first stepped into the community as service leaders. As we seek to continue to give the gift of Gannon, we look toward our thriving global partnerships, experiential learning opportunities and promotion of sustainability, and we stand poised and committed to continuing this model where the work of forming socially responsible global citizens also invites more people of goodwill to the banquet of justice set forth by God.

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