Each year after running the Care Training program, we conduct interviews with the smallholder womxn that we’ve worked with and ask them how we can further support your communities with our resources. For the past two years, astoundingly a majority of the Care Trade graduates expressed their desire to engage more of their children and youth in their communities in our programs.
We started Bean Voyage with the mission of working with womxn coffee producers, to co-create a sustainable coffee value chain that works for all, including the smallholder womxn. As a result, naturally, the thought of expanding our programs to work with youth was slightly frightening — just like any new ideas that an organization or an individual considers. However, we soon realized that we were already working with quite a few youths in the communities through our Care Training program who participated with their mothers, or as the young farm leaders and that the youth in coffee-producing communities can be an important vehicle for change. If we impart them with the right tools, networks, and knowledge, we realized, they can be crucial agents of change in promoting gender equality and coffee revitalization in their communities.
This led to the launch of the Care Fellowship earlier this year. The Care Fellowship aims to promote deeper engagement across the coffee value chain for youth from coffee-producing communities while equipping them with the leadership and entrepreneurial skills to build their own projects.
Over the six month period, the fellows will be learning key hard and soft skills, while gaining inspiration from stories of other youths who have chosen various paths in the coffee value chain, and building their own projects in their communities. After months of the selection process, we have selected 13 fellows (1 of whom had to drop out due to family issues), and last weekend, we hosted our first Bootcamp for the fellows.
The Bootcamp consisted of skills training on themes such as design thinking, project design, effective communication (emails, social media), relationship management, and team building. We then carved out space to talk about gender in coffee, after watching the Women in Coffee Documentary and then hosted the power line activity to get their perspective on gender and ways in which gender impacts our ability in our communities. We then had stories from young coffee leaders who are doing inspiring work in their professions.
Below is a short reflection from the weekend in our traditional fashion of rose (something that went well), thorn (something that we can improve), and bud (something that we look forward to):
Coffee Stories: For multiple sessions during the Bootcamp, we invited young coffee professionals from different sectors to share their stories and experiences working in the coffee industry. These professionals had varied backgrounds from working in the government to being a barista and to working in an NGO, and their stories inspired our fellows to start thinking about ways to carve different paths within the coffee sector. Often times, coffee producers are situated to view only the arduous and not-so-lucrative work of coffee production. This overtime has made coffee production appear less and less appealing to the youth. However, the conversation among these young professionals and the fellows have let us see that there are many opportunities to stay engaged with the coffee industry for the fellows -be it working for the government, or run a coffee tourism company, or become a barista and share their coffee with the world. It was quite amazing to see the faces of our fellows lighten up with inspiration while learning from our guest speakers.
Truly grateful to Maria Paz Lobo, Maria Elena Rivera Garita, and Daniel Vargas Cambronero for their time, stories, and energy!
Gender Discussion: As a feminist organization, our core mission is to promote and achieve gender equality in the coffee industry. Hence, we intentionally carved out specific activities to engage our fellows on a deeper conversation on gender equality as a part of the Bootcamp.
First, we screened a documentary, Women in Coffee (thanks to the recommendation of one of our mentors, Anthony). The documentary paved the path for all of us to jump into the conversation on gender and the way it operates in our societies (in coffee production and beyond). In the following days, we further delved into the conversation with the youths by looking into hard data, and some recommendations on ways in which we can better engage women and men to work together towards gender equality. We also had an activity of the power line, where participants were given different characters and had to put themselves in different scenarios where gender plays a crucial role in success or failure. Engaging with the youths of different genders at the various levels on gender was fruitful and crucial as we learned more closely about the stories of the fellows who all came from very different backgrounds. Throughout the Bootcamp, we were able to deconstruct the concept of gender and issues of gender inequality in their communities and the wider society.
Fellow Led Warm-ups: Throughout the Bootcamp, we put the fellows into pairs and allotted them 15 minutes to plan and lead warm-up activities. This gave the fellows the chance to apply different leadership and team-building skills that they have been learning in the fellowship. We expected them to be creative and find unique ways of ‘warming up’, and they truly made us proud! From gathering everyone to giving clear instructions, and running it to the time, the fellows led some unique and innovative warm-up activities. And by the end, they were running these activities without a single member from the Bean Voyage team being present to facilitate the sessions. One of the goals of the Care Fellowship is to build leadership in the fellows, and we feel like we’re instead learning about leadership from our fellows, which is truly exciting!
Jam Packed: We were very ambitious while planning for this Bootcamp, and ended up putting many sessions back-to-back (especially on Day 2). This meant that we had to rush through a few key learning moments trying to stay with the plan. We learned that some topics required much more time and sometimes it’s hard to gauge which topic will be more valuable for the fellows until we execute them. For example, the session on email etiquette run by Olman was so engaging that even after extending the time for 15 minutes, fellows had many questions about ways to write effective emails. This was a great learning moment for us to further sharpen our curriculum for the future. The jam-packed schedule also meant that our team was quite exhausted by the end of Day 3 (naturally). However, we were so proud to see the fellows full of energy throughout the 3 days and only realized how tired we were at the very end!
Logistics: Even after working with womxn coffee producers for a few years, this is still the first time that we directly and only engage with the youths in coffee farming communities. As a result, there is still a lot to learn in the process. It involved thinking through simple things such as gauging how much food to prepare for a group of young energetic fellows to a little bit more complex things such as having group-wide conversations on the code of conduct, shared values, and respecting each others’ private space. It also required all of our team to constantly have all our hands on deck throughout the Bootcamp. Nonetheless, it was an essential learning opportunity and we are already excited about the next Bootcamp, to say the least!
The Deeper Project Exploration: Over the next month and a half, the fellows will be spending time in their communities to have deeper conversations with the community members on the kind of projects that they would like to develop for the fellowship. In the second Bootcamp which is set to take place on August 23–25, the youths will be presenting this diagnosis. Then, in November, each fellow will present their final projects to potentially win a micro-grant to launch their own ideas. In order to get to that stage, we’re guiding them through a step-by-step project charter so they can build their projects from the bottom up.
Over the next 5 weeks, the fellows will be working on the following deliverables assigned to them:
- Deepening their Empathy Conversations;
- Taking over the Bean Voyage Instagram to share their stories;
- Writing a draft email to someone they want to connect with for their projects;
- Monthly reflection from their first month as Care Fellows (along with feedback form);
- The first draft of the project charter to build on their coffee + gender equality project ideas;
Finally, we’re truly grateful to the following people and institutions for their support in making the first Bootcamp so successful and insightful for our fellows:
- Maria Paz: for sharing her story and reflections of working at the Institute of Coffee (ICafe);
- Maria Elena: for sharing her story and journey as a barista and a Costa Rican National Barista Champion competing in the World Stage;
- Daniel Vargas: for sharing his story in the world of coffee tourism at LIFE Monteverde;
- Ivonne Lopez: for sharing the opportunity for our fellows to participate in the Raleigh Expedition in 2020;
- Hostel Urbano Los Yoses: for their warm hospitality during the first Bootcamp;
- Bottle & Kitchen: for their excellent meal service;
For more regular updates in the following weeks, follow our Instagram page!
If you have any questions or comments, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Great coffee by Great womxn