Over the years I’ve been bringing back arts and crafts from Uganda and selling them to raise funds for a school I’ve been working with in Entebbe. I only recently started drinking coffee and after coming across coffee beans in a fabric bag in a local craft market in Kampala, Uganda I thought I’d explore importing it to the UK as a way of generating ongoing funds for the school. I loved the idea of selling coffee to help fund the school as well as supporting the coffee farmers on Mount Elgon. In September 2019 I brought back 20kg of roasted coffee in my luggage to test the market. The coffee sold in three weeks so I thought I’d give it a go! We imported the first 240kg of green beans in August 2020 and sold our first bag of coffee in September. We have since imported over a tonne of green beans in less than a year.
All profits support the Early Learning School in Entebbe. How is the money spent?
The Early Learning School is an NGO looking after orphaned and disadvantaged children from all over the country. The children live and attend the school and when they reach secondary age they remain living at the school but move to a local secondary school for education. Examples of how the profits have been spent to date include:
- Providing essential food and accommodation, ensuring the children receive three meals a day & sleep under mosquito nets
- Paying for school fees for the children at secondary school
- Contributing to the salaries of the teachers at the Early Learning School
- Paying for medical costs e.g. recently we funded a heart operation for a young pupil.
You have a close personal connection to the school, its pupils and its teachers, don't you?
I first visited the school in 2002 when I was on a nursing placement at a local hospital. I instantly fell in love with the children and school principal Agnes. In 2007 I met a 4 year old girl called Ruth who came to the school after a difficult start in life. She was withdrawn, sad and didn't smile. After spending time with her she began to trust me and started to smile. This was a life changing moment for me as I saw the impact of giving love and compassion. Ruth is now 17and about to start her nurse training. Ruth is just one of the 120 children whose lives we are impacting.
Kickstart Coffee's financial support has saved, as well as changed, lives. Tell us about Stewart, one of the Kickstart Kids?
7 year old Stewart had a successful heart operation on 14th May at Mulago Heart Institute and is now able to breathe freely and run around with his friends without getting tired. Stuart has lived at the Early Learning School in Entebbe since he was one and sees the school as his home. Kickstart Coffee started the Operation Heart fundraiser where all the profits from the coffee sold in April went towards the costs. Along with donations we were able to fully pay for his operation. Stewart stayed in hospital for 4 nights after his operation before being discharged into Agnes’ care.
What's the reward, on a personal level, of running Kickstart Coffee?
Having an impact on the lives of children and teachers in Uganda so they can have the basics, and an education to give them the best chance of realising their dreams. There are children that we met in 2002 who are now doctors, nurses, teachers because they have been able to go to school and university. Setting up Kickstart Coffee gives the children a chance in life which they may not have had. All the hard work is worth it when you see the children smiling, happy and healthy. We are so privileged to work with people like Agnes who has a passion for supporting these children and teachers. With a little help from coffee we can continue to provide the necessary help and support.
Who else is involved with Kickstart Coffee?
To make this happen we need passionate people in the team. Alison (left) has been supporting The Early Learning School since 2008 when she first visited Uganda. Agnes (right) is the director of the school and cares so greatly for the vulnerable children in her care. Hannah (Middle) first visited Uganda 2002 when she completed her elective nursing placement. Since then Uganda has become a second home. Reuben (Hannah's son) has made many friends at The Early Learning School and is always finding new ways of fundraising to buy food and clothes.