War Dance (another Ugandan story of peace)

Dear Friends,

A few weeks back, our dear friend and supporter Ellen Friedland (one half of the creative force behind the upcoming delicious peace film documentary) clued me in on a remarkable new film called War Dance. The film is the story of a group of young men and women from war-torn northern Uganda as they travel to Kampala to compete in a national dance competition. More so, though, the film is about the incredible strength of the Ugandan people, who have lived with a brutal war in the northern part of the country for over two decades now, and the power of music, dance, and culture.

Though the film’s story takes place some 500 kilometers away from the Peace Kawomera Cooperative, these two stories share a common thread of hope, beauty, and peace. Right now, with the terrible news from Kenya, Sudan, and the Congo (that’s 3/5 neighboring countries), these stories are especially powerful, and I think, especially important.

Please take a few minutes to visit the film’s website, and watch their trailer.

War Dance

Congratulations to filmakers Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine, and Executive Producer Susan Maclaury on making this important film, and their recent nomination for an Academy Award!

Interfaith Youth Group Launches in SF

We’re thrilled to announce the launch of a new interfaith youth group in San Francisco, composed of members of the San Francisco Interfaith Council, and working to cultivate the next generation’s interfaith leaders and peace-makers. Please read on for more information, and see the contact info below if you’re interested in attending now or in the future.

What: The first meeting of a new interfaith youth group, bringing young people from San Francisco’s many faith communities together in a common effort to gain understanding of each other by working side-by-side. Specifically, the youth will explore issues of social justice as they relate to the story of Mirembe Kawomera “Delicious Peace” Coffee, from their perspective, and other’s, and work towards the planning of an interfaith youth delegation/service trip to Uganda in the summer of 2009.

Where: The Sunroom at Café Gratitude, Café Gratitude, 1336 9th Ave (@ Irving)

When: 3pm, February 3rd

Who: Members of the San Francisco Interfaith Council, including Grace Cathedral, Congregation Emanu-El, The Islamic Society of San Francisco, Sherith Israel, and St. Jame’s Episcopal church; community leaders, and youth from their communities; Thanksgiving Coffee Co.; The San Francisco Interfaith Counci; and the Interfaith Youth Core.

Please contact Ben Corey-Moran (that’s me) at 800-462-1999×30 for more information or to RSVP.

“שלום טעים” “Delicious Peace”

יום ראשון, 16 בדצמבר 2007, 13:15 מאת: רחל אינגבר, מערכת וואל!

Hello Friends,

Here is an article that was published on an Israel coffee website. Our blog is not letting me post the article without having the Hebrew characters all jumbled up. So if you are interested in reading the article, please do so at this link: http://coffee.walla.co.il/?w=/944/1210154

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קנו קפה – השקיעו בחינוך

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Coffee cup of peace

Coffee cup of peace
By : AMY CHEW

2007/12/04
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Ellen Friedland found a story of love and hope in a packet of aromatic coffee powder.

Seeds of peace are being planted on a coffee plantation by Jewish, Muslim and Christian farmers who believe religion should unite all people. Now a film is being made about them, writes AMY CHEW.

AMERICAN documentary film producer Ellen Friedland had grown tired of the news: war in the Middle East, natural disasters, sectarian violence, …the human race seemingly unable to live with each other.

When she attended a Jewish festival at a synagogue more than a year ago, she was given a packet of coffee powder so aromatic it made her look twice at the packet.

On it was a picture of an African farmer with the words Mirembe Kawomera Coffee (“delicious peace coffee” in Luganda, the most widely-spoken language in Uganda). Intrigued, Friedland discovered the coffee was grown by Muslims, Christians and Jewish farmers who lived and worked side by side in the southeastern Ugandan district of Mbale. (Coffee exports account for 90 per cent of Uganda’s international trade revenue.)

“I thought this was a great story to tell the world,” said Friedland in an interview in Los Angeles last month. “I was so tired of all the bad news in the world. People need to hear positive stories,” she added.
Friedland then spent the next six months trying to coax members of the co-operative to meet her and to convince them she was not out to exploit them. When they finally agreed, Friedland and cinematographer Curt Fissel flew to Mbale to film and produce a documentary on the farmers.

The documentary, Delicious Peace Grows In An Ugandan Coffee Bean, is currently in production, for release late next year.

Amidst the lush greenery and majestic mountains of Mbale, the team discovered a wonderful story of plurality, acceptance, and unity. In a continent known for starving millions, civil wars, and brutal dictators, the Muslim, Christian and Jewish farmers of Mirembe Kawomera toil together under the sweltering skies to plant and harvest coffee trees.

In doing so, the farmers hope to sow the seeds of peace.

J. J. Keki, director of Mirembe Kawomera Cooperative, says in the documentary’s trailer: “I brought the idea to my friends, Muslims and Christians, and said we should make a co-operative selling our coffee — as well as spreading peace in the world.

“Today, the world is in pain. We want to prove to the world that a better way is to be proud of who you are, respect each other and make something great together.”

In the 1970s, the country’s brutal dictator, Idi Amin, attacked Jewish people and various African tribes during his rule. He also expelled most Asian Ugandans in 1972 and brought the country’s economy to its knees.

Friedland said: “During the years of Idi Amin’s rule, he built prejudices amongst the people. These people (Mbale farmers) said ‘let’s break it down’. They are so accepting of one another. They are a great example to the rest of the world.”

After years of conflict, the farmers want peace for their families and community so that they can improve their lives. They believe that religion should never be a divisive issue but a force that unites all people.

“Where there is war, there is no development so we want to spread the gospel that we should unite,” says Elias Hasulube, a co-operative member.

“Let us not fight one another, because of what? Religion? We all believe in one God,” he said.

The co-operative comprises 570 farming families with many more eager to join them.

Crucial to the success of Mirembe Kawomera is the co-operative’s partnership with Thanksgiving Coffee, a California-based fair trade coffee roaster and distributor that pays the farmers over US$1.41 (RM4.76) a pound for organic coffee.

“The importance of Thanksgiving Coffee is that it is one of the organisations which accepted to buy coffee from Uganda,” said Mirembe’s Keki. “They also take the time to tell about our programme of promoting peace in the world and also to get us many customers.”

Thanksgiving Coffee distributes the coffee primarily through interfaith circles co-operating to spread the message of “delicious peace” with the hope that the model can be replicated elsewhere.

“I see this interfaith co-operative something that every coffee-growing community hopes for, that is economic independence,” said Thanksgiving Coffee’s chief executive Paul Katzeff.

“From that comes empowerment, from that comes children who are educated, from that come doctors and lawyers, social workers, water experts,” he added.

The documentary will highlight the Mirembe Kawomera venture, focusing on the experience of the farmers watching patiently to see the seeds of the co-op grow and spread in various directions.

Friedland started work on the documentary a year ago. “We hope to distribute the documentary some time towards the end of 2008,” she said.

“These people (coffee farmers) really hope this (documentary) will be successful. I can’t let them down, I can’t turn around,” she said.

A delightful trailer on the Mirembe Kawomera documentary, with inspiring interviews of the farmers can be viewed at www.DeliciousPeaceGrows.com or at www.youtube.com.

http://www.nst.com.my:80/Current_News/NST/Tuesday/Features/20071204095623/Article/indexF_html

Happy Chanukah

Happy Chanukah

Chanukah is right around the corner!
Our Mirembe Kawomera “Delicious Peace” basket is a wonderful gift of
coffee, peace, and thought.
The contents of this basket will bring joy beyond the 8th day of Chanukah!

Included with the coffee (a package of dark, light, and decaf),
is the music CD “Abayudaya, the Jews of Uganda,”
and an organic chocolate bar.

Happy Chanukah.
May the lights from this holiday season
illuminate your path to a brilliant 2008.
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Click here to order:
http://store.thanksgivingcoffee.com/product_info.php?products_id=89

Co-op Launches “Grow Through Savings Program”

What do you do when your cooperative increases prices by four times? You start a micro-finance project, of course. And not just any micro-finance project: a program that creates the infrastructure for farmers to save money, and incentives them to put aside small amounts of money every other month, for years and years.

The following was written by Wafidi Ahmed, Project Coordinator:

IDA stands for Individual Development Accounts and the general idea is that you encourage people to save by matching the deposit. The ultimate goal is to save enough so we can build wealth through the acquisition of assets, such as land, farming equipment, and education. We decided to start the programme after talking with Ken Schultz, a lawyer and social worker in the United States, and Ben Corey-Moran of Thanksgiving Coffee, who supported the idea of a program that could teach financial literacy to the members and help them use their income to create wealth. For all of us, it seemed to be a perfect fit.

The Grow Through Savings Program, at this time, has 15 participants, who have opened savings accounts with Crane Bank located in Mbale, Uganda. The Bank offers a 14 percent interest rate on accounts per annum. The Bank also has agreed to hold financial literacy seminars for the participants. We had our first seminar on July 2, 2007, which was filmed by two people, who are doing a documentary on the Cooperative.

Every other month a participant is required to deposit $5 in his or her account every other month. Each $5 deposit is matched at a 1:1 rate. We opened accounts in fall of 2006 and we have had a 100 percent rate of success so far. The participants are very excited about the program and see how their money can grow through this program.

The purpose of the account is for the participants to acquire assets to help them expand the production of coffee and other cash crops or to put enough money away to help their children attend secondary education, which is not free in Uganda. Both assets are critical to build a better, more secure future. The program is also designed to provide us financial literacy so we can make better decisions with our money.

The participants include Muslims, Christians, and Jews. We require that at least 50 percent of the participants are women. We are very eager to expand educational opportunities for women because many women here are forced to leave school at a very young age to help out at home. This is a core goal of the IDA program. For us, education is a very important asset.

In order to grow, the “Grow Through Savings Program” needs additional revenue streams to supply the matching funds. Donations are being channeled through US-based Kulanu.org, and should be sent by check to:

Harriet Bograd, Treasurer
Kulanu, Inc
165 West End Ave, 3R
New York, NY 10023

***Please write “Uganda IDA program” in the comments field online or the memo field of the check.

Featured Young Person: Juliana Moskowitz

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Juliana Moskowitz is a 13-year-old eighth grader in Richmond, Virginia. Last year she decided to sell Mirembe Kawomera for her Bat Mitzvah project. In addition to supporting the interfaith work of the cooperative members, she used the coffee to raise money for a lunch program at the main high school where many of the farmers’ children study.

From Juliana’s “thank you” speech, she writes: “I want to thank every single person who bought Mirembe Kawomera coffee from us or gave a donation to the Dora Bloch Lunch Fund. We started this project one year ago and what an adventure it has been. Believe it or not, we sold over 660 bags of coffee. My parents drank at least 20 bags (and if anyone knows my mother you would know that she doesn’t need to be any more hyper). We had an opportunity to educate lots of people about the Ugandan cooperative of Jewish, Muslim and Christian coffee farmers who do their part in making the world a more peaceful place. The coffee is Fair Trade and supports 558 farming families. We also had an opportunity to tell the story of how there came to be a Jewish community in Uganda and the most important thing is that we is raised 1,500 dollars in coffee sales and over 1,200 dollars in donations. Every penny will go to the feed the children lunch at the Semei Kakungulu High School in the Village of Namanyoyi. While this is a Jewish School and the Jews of Uganda are called the Abayudaya, it educates children of all religions. These optimistic beautiful children are literally malnourished. We have much to be proud of.”

Juliana, we are very proud of you! Thank you for all your hard work, and inspiring other youth and adults alike to take action. You rock!

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Featured Community: Congregation Bet Mishpachah

In the early summer months, the Mirembe Kawomera team at Thanksgiving Coffee Co. asked many communities to share their own stories with us. These stories are intended to network communities across America, highlight the uniqueness and diversity of supporting groups, and act as a guide to newly forming organizations. I’m proud to announce our first featured community is Congregation Bet Mishpachah.
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“Delicious Peace Grows Here”: Community Profile
Congregation Bet Mishpachah,
Washington, DC

written by Lee Mark Salawitch

Congregation Bet Mishpachah (“Bet Mish”) is a socially conscious, socially active temple of approximately 220 members. Bet Mish was founded over thirty years ago by gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered Jews. We are an egalitarian, welcoming community. Our congregants hail from all traditions of Judaism, some are Jews by Choice, and we are a multi-ethnic, multi-racial, diverse House of Family.

The Social Action / Social Justice (“SA/SJ”) Committee heard of Delicious Peace or Mirembe Kawomera Coffee (“MKC”) via our esteemed Rabbi Bob Saks. Rabbi Saks had previously purchased MKC from Tiferith Israel Congregation in Washington, DC. Upon learning of the Cooperative at a committee meeting, the SA/SJ immediately saw this as a perfect opportunity to help an extremely worthwhile and inspirational project – a multi-faith cooperative in a country not known for multi-religious cooperation. The project was launched after a proposal was submitted to and approved by the congregation’s Board of Directors.

One of the cornerstones of Bet Mish is the concept of “tikkun olam,” or repairing our fractured world. If by selling a product which so many of us enjoy on a regular basis, coffee, we can assist a community in great need, why wouldn’t we do so? What it means to be part of the Delicious Peace project is that by purchasing MKC, we are able to contribute to the livelihood and improve the well being of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim farmers in one of the poorest countries of the world; that we are able to significantly assist the lives of those whose annual income is less than what many of us make in a week. We can demonstrate the power of cooperation among people of various faiths. Also, as a small amount of the purchase price is donated to Bet Mishpachah, we are also helping our own community via the sales of MKC coffee. Quite simply, we can make a difference.

The SA/SJ Committee has shared information about MKC via an article in the monthly on-line and print congregational newsletter, by a standing order form in the newsletter, with weekly bimah announcements, by members of the committee creating “buzz” about the coffee at onegs and Kiddush lunches, and by the exclusive use of MKC at all synagogue sanctioned events. The official launch of our coffee project was at a very well attended spring “Kosher for Passover” wine tasting event, where two varieties of MKC were served. While we have not done so yet, a terrific way to create interfaith cooperation in our community is to introduce Delicious Peace project coffee to congregations of other faiths. This may happen!

The response so far has been fantastic! Bet Mish places orders every six to eight weeks. I prefer to order over the phone with Holly Moskowitz; it’s a great time to catch up and obtain information about what’s new at Thanksgiving Coffee. The potential for growth is phenomenal: additional members are purchasing coffee with each order, and our print newsletter reaches over 1000 people each month.

My role is as our “Mr. Coffee.” I serve as one of the Board Members at Large on the congregation’s Board of Directors, and I am also a member on the SA/SJ Committee. I communicate with those placing orders, organize and place the orders, and distribute the coffee Friday night before services. All coffee is distributed in black, yellow, and red bags, the colors of the Ugandan flag, and there is a small Ugandan flag printed on the order confirmation forms. A re-order form is enclosed with every order, and, prior to an order being placed, a “reminder to re-order” email is sent to those who have previously placed orders. I am available to discuss the project at Friday night and Saturday morning Shabbat services.

A story about Mirembe Kawomera was in the April 13, 2007, Washington “Jewish Week.”

A very exciting event will occur in October when Aaron Kintu Moses, assistant Rabbi of the Abayudayah Ugandan Jewish community, will be guest speaker at a congregational Shabbat dinner and at Friday night services.

Bet Mish is always looking for ideas to expand the impact of our project, either via a forum or email updates. Yes, I would definitely participate in a forum. The most helpful materials provided by Thanksgiving Coffee Company have been the brochures and dvd. If an organization wishes to launch a coffee program, I would suggest having a coffee tasting event or Ugandan themed event to introduce the coffee to the community. Convince your organization to serve Delicious Peace exclusively. Treat coffee sales the way one might sell Girl Scout cookies or gift wrap – tell friends, relatives, co-workers and neighbors about the project and the coffee. And don’t get discouraged if the immediate response is not overwhelming – some projects take longer to percolate than others.
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Chicago plants a seed of peace

Chicago. The city’s always been kind of an enigma to me. It’s somewhere between rural Indiana and cosmopolitan Manhattan in my imagination. Each time I visit, it’s a discovery of new layers. Now, the discovery of new stratum is beginning to form a coherent, and exciting kind of geology.

Six months ago, our friends at the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation of Evanston invited us to attend the Hamsa Festival with them. Hamsa is a middle-eastern cultural fair, and the JRC wanted to use the event to reach out to other communities of faith in Chicago. I arrived late Friday night to attend the two-day festival. Elaine Waxman (chief ambassador for our efforts with the JRC) picked me up and whisked me to her home, through the last bits of rain from an unusually strong summer storm.

Our work began Saturday morning, as we arrived in time to set up our booth before the noon festival opening. As I carried boxes of coffee over the wet grass of Lincoln Park, I met Miryam Rashid, who works with the American Friends Service Committee, and who was sharing our booth. Miryam coordinates AFSC’s efforts to build a market for Fair Trade Palestinian olive oil, another project which illustrates of the need for economic development in support of people building sustainable livelihoods as a foundation for peace. What a perfect pairing! I thought to myself, as we began to converse with festival attendees…two examples of how fair trade can connect us to peacemaking around the world!

Through the course of the weekend we met a diverse cross-section of Chicago’s community: young and old, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim, religious and agnostic. The organizers of the Hamsa Festival certainly succeeded in building a large tent where everyone felt welcome. Conversations flowed, packages sold, and through the course of the two days, we met a handful of dedicated community activists and organizers who are interested in helping us spread the story of delicious peace.

My hope from the weekend? That we would begin to map out the landscape of interfaith collaboration in Chicago, and plant the seeds for a city-wide interfaith campaign modeled after our efforts in San Francisco. We certainly made a number of these connections, and as we packed up the booth on Sunday night, I thought of the farmers in Uganda, and how the story of their work is slowly spreading from place to place, echoing other efforts to build peace, and inspiring new ones. That distant view I once had of Chicago is starting to come into focus, the landscape of interfaith organizing is starting to come together around this project.

Monday morning I met with the Chicago-based Interfaith Youth Core, an incredible organization, and powerful center of gravity for the emerging interfaith youth movement. As our work with farmers to build a fair trade movement progresses, we find ourselves walking alongside other efforts. Connected by shared values, we find our paths intersecting. The IFYC is one of those new partners, and I look forward to sharing news from their upcoming national conference, where we’ll be presenting a workshop on fair trade, faith, and interfaith action.

If any of you, our dear readers, have suggestions for likely partners in Chicago, please send them our way.

Stay tuned…

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