The fight against extreme poverty is not easy. War, refugee camps, hunger, rape, brutality – our South Sudan Country Director Tito has seen it all. He was conscripted by both the state and rebel armies of Sudan in his youth, lost family and friends to civil war, and has been forced to flee his home on more than one occasion.
Many of us would be ready to throw in the towel, tired of watching our country fall apart over and over again, but not Tito. He sees opportunity – a hope for his country as he is busy putting it back together. For more than a decade, Tito has been teaching local leaders how to engage with and improve their communities, even amid the harshest of conditions. And now, as so many South Sudanese are forced to flee their homes into neighboring Uganda – an estimated 800,000 so far, including Tito’s family – he is providing the comfort of a warm, friendly face welcoming many of them into northern Uganda’s refugee camps.
Tito is working diligently in several of these communities, starting leadership classes, holding trauma-healing workshops to help refugees process what they’ve experienced, and providing durable zinc roofs to those whose U.N.-issued tarps have failed to provide adequate shelter over their new homes.
And you, as a Mocha Club member, are right there standing beside him. Tito has transformed your everyday generosity into life change: the materials necessary for these workshops, the sheets of zinc that will protect refugees in their homes for a decade. You, me, Tito, members of the Mocha Club community around the world – we all play a role in providing a vital part of the healing process for refugees: HOPE. Your mochas matter in South Sudan.
We are hiring a new position for our team : Member Care Coordinator. This person will be the first point of contact with the organization and is responsible for creating a warm welcome to new members & friends of Mocha Club! Read more responsibilities & expectations below.
Applications are due Friday, April 28th with an immediate start date.
Apply by email with your resume to info(at)themochaclub.org.
REFUGEE: A person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution or natural disaster.
This definition has been my understanding of a refugee for years and the images we see on US television paint a grim reality that thousands endure each year as they are impacted by the trauma forcing them from their homes.
In February, I was able to go and visit Mocha Club’s Country Director and staff who are working in northern Uganda with refugees fleeing the war in South Sudan. As we began our drive into the camps, my heart was ready for what my head was sure I was about to encounter.
Our journey led us to Adjumani, Uganda where I first met Anthony, an older man with a kind smile who looked to be in his late sixties. He was standing in front of the tarped structure he now calls home. Last September, when the fighting got close to his village in South Sudan, he sent his mother, his wife, and his five young children to safety in Uganda. He stayed behind, separated from his loved ones, salvaging what he could of their farm until army rebels took over three months later, forcing him to flee.
As Anthony shared his story, I could see the fear and heartbreak he had lived through on his face. He was not sure what he would find as he crossed the Nile and made his way to the processing tent at Adjumani where all new refugees must go to get registered and ask about their relatives. Did his mother survive the trek three months ago? Were all of his children still alive? Would his wife be there? It’s a reality I truly can’t fathom.
Anthony’s story lined up with what I have seen on TV or witnessed in other camps before. I had expected Adjumani to be unfathomable: hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese refugees; makeshift communities dotted with tarped roofs; tons of stories just like Anthony’s.
I’ve been in many places like this before – places where poverty, war and trauma are overwhelming and it looks like – it feels like – all hope is lost. In these camps, there is a tension that exists and becomes normal. Refugee vs. Peacekeeper. Refugee vs. Refugee. Refugee vs. Local. This tension is often even tangibly represented by a huge fence around the camp – not to keep refugees safe, but to keep them in. In this reality, a refugee is fighting to survive – they never even dream about thriving.
Adjumani is different.
As Tito, our South Sudan Country Director, showed me around, I began to see things I had not expected. I saw smiles, I saw community, I saw – HOPE. Tito pointed out opportunity, vision, dreams, and plans for a future here. He was breathing hope to life.
I struggled to reconcile what I had expected with what was right in front of me, then it hit me… these people’s lives had been entirely wrecked, forever altered. But they were finally at a place where they could stop running.
Hundreds of thousands of people like Anthony had fought to make it here. But when they arrived, they found kindness and were offered land next to their Ugandan neighbors. I was able to ask several Ugandans, “Why are you so willing to share your land, your schools, your economy with so many South Sudanese refugees?” Their response? “Because ten years ago, they did that for us.”
For decades, this region has lived with civil war, with night commutes and child soldiers. Where we see a line separating South Sudan and Uganda, they don’t see anything. They lived here long before that line was drawn; they’ve been neighbors for centuries; they’ve hosted each other in times of crisis. And they continue to do so — because when all else fails, community remains.
I now had a new understanding and appreciation for refugees. While what I saw was different than my expectations, it did not diminish the very real needs, which are still present. Remember those tarp roofs? Tito shared with us that they only last three months and an immediate need in the refugee community is to find a solution for them.Thanks to you and the Mocha Club community we have been able to provide zinc roofs for many of the refugee families.
Oh, and Anthony? His family is one that will benefit from the zinc roofs – the roofs that are a result of your mochas. That’s me, Anthony, and his wife Betty in front of their current home, tarp and all. Soon that tarp will be replaced by the zinc sheets he has received. And for the next ten years, those zinc sheets – your mochas – will be the solid roof over his family in this community that has become their home.
I asked Tito what was next – for the refugees and for how Mocha Club could support them beyond a solid roof under which their families could lay their heads. He said he dreams of a place where they can rest their hearts as well. So he is beginning to teach these refugees how to walk through their stories of trauma and loss and begin to heal.
Mocha Club’s community leader writes…Mvera is home to 300 villages in central Malawi. It is pretty difficult to get water in this area — because it is a hilly area full of rocks, the water springs dry out during the dry season and boreholes are hard to drill. There are two wells: one that functions and one that doesn’t and has been broken for years. So the 300 villages in Mvera all rely on this one functioning well — including those who live 3+ miles away from it.
Mvera is also home to one of Mocha Club’s local community development classes. As the class spent time out in the community, listening to friends, neighbors, and local stakeholders, the gravity of the water situation became very clear — Lack of clean water is something that affects everything and everyone in the community.
Women and girls are often the ones forced to spend their days going back and forth to the one working well; women even keep mats at the well so they can rest while they wait in the long lines and the young girls miss school classes in order to help their families retrieve water.
The students in the community development class found that the local hospital was having a hard time keeping up with the rate of water-borne illnesses. It has even had to push expectant mothers out of the hospital because there is no water. In addition, new businesses don’t want to set up shop in a town without water either.
So the class went to work. They talked to local engineers, parts suppliers, professional builders and plumbers to get suggestions, cost estimates, and timelines. Fixing the old well — which they found out was dug in 1922, originally to 36 meters deep — was time consuming and expensive as it had gotten so full of sand and mud over the past 95 years that it now went only 7 meters deep. So they went back to work, consulting more members of the community and water experts. Turns out they had local resources to complete a piping project that would take water from the functioning well to a new purification tank further out and then, once treated, from the tank through smaller pipes to a distribution area easily accessible by 5,000 people.
They put together a proposal which included a plan for strategically piping water and purifying it for those communities in need. The proposal includes how they would utilize local resources and also the opportunity for funding to make this project become a reality and sent the proposal to Mocha Club’s local Country Director. It went through a few rounds of vetting — ensuring the project was feasible, practical, locally sustainable — now it is time to act.
Here’s where you come in — your mochas can become Mvera’s clean water. Your everyday generosity, together with the rest of the Mocha Club community, will be the reason 5,000 have safe drinking water, a functioning hospital, fuller schools, and new economic opportunities. And it will be the reason the next community, and the next community, and the next community after Mvera get clean water.
Mocha Club Members, THANK YOU!
Not a member yet? Want to help provide clean water to Mvera and other communities? Will you give up a few extra mochas this World Water Day?
Join today and we’ll send you a Mocha Club water bottle as a thank you!
Have you ever thought about how the places you live and work and enjoy were once just an idea in someone’s head? Think about your school, your home, your favorite coffeeshop. They all began with a dream; a hope to support the life and joy of your community.
During MC Journey 2016, this awareness transformed our 12-day trip into a deeply meaningful experience. Each and every place we visited held a special memory — chatting with students and teachers at New Dawn, dancing with the women at HEKO while rain fell around our shelter, sitting on the sunlit porch at the Women at Risk recalling the darkness of the drive we took the night before — but more than anything, I loved hearing stories of how and why it all began.
Before our visit to each organization, we sat across the table from their founders as they graciously shared their personal journey leading to the realization of a need in their community. We had the privilege of hearing how places like New Dawn, HEKO, and Women and Risk were once dreams, turned into reality, and sustained by the support of every Mocha Club member. Can you imagine walking into a place for the very first time with that understanding of its history?
The hardest work you will do on your MC Journey will be to let go of your expectations and be fully present during every conversation, every story, every offer of service given to you. You will most certainly do more listening than labor. You will come to find that you are there not to serve, but be served. You will so clearly see how one cup of coffee supports African leaders with a vision for loving their community. You will see how one cup plants hope in many who felt hopeless, and how another empowers them to live independently in health and financial stability. But most importantly, you will be filled to the brim with a joy so moving I can hardly put it into words. Go. Go and see the power of a mocha.
Has it been life-long dream to travel to Africa? Do you have a heart to serve others around the world? Do you love to meet new people and find friends with common interests?
If you answered YES to any of the above, join the Mocha Club Journey 2017 trip to Africa this summer!
This summer we are headed to Ethiopia and Kenya! We will spend time with our partners at Women at Risk in both the capital city of Addis Ababa, and in Nazareth, a town a few hours outside of the city. We will also visit New Dawn Educational Centre and Heritage Kenya Organization (HEKO)in Nairobi, Kenya. Our trips provide an opportunity for Mocha Club members and their friends to visit Africa and witness firsthand what giving up a few mochas a month can do, while having a chance to serve the African people. The trip will be 12 days long and we team up with the local indigenous leaders in each country to serve alongside them in the orphanages, schools, and other various projects that Mocha Club supports.
Dates: June 11- June 22, 2017 (dates could vary 1-2 days on each side, depending on flight availability)
Curtis Stoneberger has been a long-time friend of Mocha Club and currently stands as the Executive Vice President of the organization. His first trip to Africa was a visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo with Mocha Club Artist, Sidewalk Prophets. He enjoys rides on his motorcycle, family time at his cabin, and music.
Fallon officially joined the Mocha Club team in Nashville in early 2013, but has been a long-time member and supporter. As the Mocha Club Artist & Member Care Manager, she’ll make sure your trip to Africa is just one of the many ways you stay connected to the club! Fallon loves dancing, her puppy Henry, and leftovers.
We’re kicking off the new year with an announcement that Emily Blackledge has been promoted from within by the Board of Directors and will now serve as the organization’s new President.
Emily Blackledge most recently served as the Vice President of International Program for Mocha Club. She has been part of the staff since 2010 and involved with the organization since 2005. Originally from Boulder, Colorado, she completed her undergraduate degree in International Political Economy at Belmont University, then spent time in Washington DC working with the President’s Initiative for Workforce Development. Blackledge received her Master’s degree in International Relations and African Studies from Boston University before returning to Nashville in 2008. She has taught international development and international politics at Belmont University and was the Sam Walton Fellow in charge of international projects for the Belmont chapter of ENACTUS before joining Mocha Club in 2010. Emily and her husband Rob live in Nashville with their son Fletcher.
“Emily has played an integral role in our international operations since 2010, and the Board and I are confident in her leadership capabilities. We look forward to working with her in this capacity,” says Chairman of the Board Jerry Heffel, formerly the President of The Southwestern Company.
“My previous role allowed me to travel and see first hand the great impact Mocha Club members are having in communities across Africa. My new role will allow me to share those stories even more here at home, to tell more people about the very real impact of their everyday generosity – something I’ve seen and experienced up close the past several years — and of our collective power to ignite change. I couldn’t be more excited about that going forward,” says Blackledge.
On Wednesday, January 25, 2017, Mocha Club will host an Open House at their office in Brentwood. The public is invited and encouraged to come meet Emily and learn more about the future of the organization.
Donuts & Mochas Open House
Wednesday, January 25, 2017 • 7:30am – 9:30am at the Mocha Club Offices
500 Wilson Pike Circle, Suite 117 Brentwood, TN 37027
If you’ve supported our education initiatives through Mocha Club or have ever participated in Ellie’s Run for Africa , you supported students at New Dawn Academy who have now graduated! With joy of new students starting school, there is also joy celebrating the students that are moving on to bigger things!
The lead up to graduation starts with final exams. In previous years, the students would take their exams at the school per normal but this year they were advised by the government and department of education to take the exams at a nearby teacher’s college. Transportation in Kenya is not as accessible as that in the States and so with the help of supportive parents, the students traveled to take their exams together:
“The parents chipped in and supported towards the transportation of students to and from the exam venue. They hired a bus that made it easier for the entire exercise to be concluded with minimal hitches. This required special/extra arrangements for the transport and meals. The candidates’ parents agreed to take up the cost for hiring transport to and from the exam venues. The school provided lunch for the candidates.”
And then came the big day!
“Several students gave short remarks regarding their experience at NDEC, all in appreciation of the opportunity to have been part of the family. The teachers too appreciated their time of interaction with the students and encouraged them to pursue opportunities to further their education and career objectives with the assurance that God would be with them all the way into the future.”
The staff at New Dawn wanted to gives thanks for the support of all who participated in Ellie’s Run and the donors from Mocha Club! These students couldn’t have done what they did without you.
It’s been almost 4 months since I tried to enter the back door of Mocha Club and eventually found the front door of our lovely office. I drove 8 hours the day before from Virginia and all of my belongings for the next 4 months still filled my car. I walked into the office and began. As it often does, the time rushed past and now I have about a week left in Nashville. As I think back on these months spent in the South, I consider what I learned.
I learned a lot of things, but the most important one that will affect my work and life is about how to relate to other people. I deeply respect the way that Mocha Club staff members operate by working closely with African leaders. They make these leaders’ dreams their own and work with them toward their goals with a posture of humility and respect. I could go on about the many other things I learned through being here day to day, or talk about how every person at the office showed me kindness and included me, but that might make for a long post. So I’ll stop here and just say that as I pack my bags, I will be taking more with me than when I came—things that I cannot pack in my car, lessons that will stay with me all of my life.
I’ll leave you with a poem I wrote based on a quote by one of our partners in Africa. May you be blessed and spread the blessing.
“The name of that place is actually Tumbe . . ., which means a place for rejected people, but God spoke to us and told us these people are not rejected, they should not be called rejected, they should not live with the name of rejection, so we said we are going to call this place Blessed Camp.” –Peter O O’chiel (Action Ministry)
The first word of the first Psalm
In my English Bible reads “blessed.”
A foundation of identity, something I
Have always been without knowing.
Ignorance is hard to shake
But it is not the kind of knowledge we
Think we need that will save us.
We think we are damned—
And we’re right, sort of.
We think we are unworthy—
And there is a hint of reality in that bitter delusion.
We think we are rejected—
And we could not be further (and nearer) to the truth.
I’ve asked this question to a number of my colleagues here at Mocha since beginning my internship three months ago. What brought you to this organization? Why this nonprofit, rather than another? Why work at a nonprofit at all? I’ve phrased the question in different ways each time, but really there’s one thing I want to know: tell me, how passionate are you about what you do? How invested are you in Mocha’s vision?
If you’re anything like me, you tend to approach nonprofits with a critical eye. There are many pitfalls that go along with aid work in developing countries, particularly when that work is cross-cultural in nature. (I’ll point you, not for the first time, to books like When Helping Hurts and documentaries such as Poverty, Inc because they’ve been so helpful to me in understanding such challenges.) Doing work that is truly good, helpful, and sustainable is never easy. So when I think about the initiatives I want to support, both financially and with my time, I tend to start with a bit of cynicism, and I ask a lot of questions.
An internship is, by nature, rather like just skimming the surface of an organization. So during my time here at the Mocha Club, I’ve tried to ask questions, to dive deeper. I keep asking: why are you here? Why work at a place like the Mocha Club?
And you know what? My coworkers really believe in the work that the Mocha Club is doing. They keep looking back at me with excited eyes and telling me about what they love most. One talks about Mocha Club’s work with our artist partners, and how beautiful it is to work hand-in-hand and face-to-face with artists to unite their musical pursuits with the opportunity to support a good cause. Some talk about how the transparency of the organization makes it easy to see where your donations go; others speak on how much they believe in the value of the pastor training, orphan care, and the other projects that Mocha Club supports in Africa. I’ve had many conversations about the challenges of working cross-culturally—with, not for, the poor—and more than one coworker has voiced the importance of listening and of humility.
Forgive me if this all sounds like a pitch. Because here’s the thing: my internship with this lovely group of people is about to conclude—in fact, this is my last post on this blog. And this is what I’d love to leave you with. Believe in the good heart, the effectiveness, and the humility of the work that Mocha Club is doing in Africa. Believe in the people that send you emails, invite you to support new initiatives, and answer the phone when you call the office. When you join the Club, you’re joining a pretty special thing.