Tito is our South Sudan Country Director. Although he has spent most of his life surrounded by war, Tito maintains an incredible capacity to love others. Here he explains what compels him to do so.
“We are truly the generation that can make history and it starts with us leading the way by not being selfish. The more you empower others and embrace team and mentoring – I guarantee, you will manifest more opportunity than you can handle.” –Gerard Adams
Fifteen years after hearing this, Gerard Adams’ message still rings in my head. I know with the knowledge God has given me I can become an agent of change. I know church leaders can be the source of hope and peace for my country.
As a college student in Kenya, I would periodically go back to South Sudan. I saw church leaders waiting for relief, waiting for someone else to make a difference – this I strongly disagreed with. Our motivation is supposed to be the love of God, but people were waiting to be given rather than giving. That was the state of the church I wanted to see transformed.
This compels me to be part of changing the situation.
I realized that sharing Christ through your own life, way of living, what you do, your business – in relation to all the difficulties South Sudanese are going through at the camps and villages, you can still be able to give hope. If you do this with integrity, peace can be realized in our communities, churches, and the country at large.
It is all the product of love.
The money you give in love has an effect – it has blessings on both sides and can actually change lives. What friends and donors have given in love has enabled us to train about 4,000 church leaders since 2004.
From being a student seeing a lot of need to taking action, I found peace and can now see hope in South Sudan.
Throughout the rest of the year, we’ll be showcasing the ways we see loved people love people across our network. We’d love to hear from you! Why do you give or volunteer? How have you been loved? Share your story with us online – hashtag #LovedPeopleLovePeople & #mochaclub and we’ll send you a Mocha Club sticker!
It’s easy to feel helpless when it comes to the bigger problems in the world. You may look around and see all that’s wrong, and want to help, but feel unsure of where or how to begin. You may even dream up a solution, and then your brain interrupts…but I don’t have x, y, or z, so I can’t. You may think you lack what you need to make a difference. That’s a normal thought.
But it’s not true. Through asset-based community development, you can make a difference right where you are.
What’s asset-based community development?
Asset-based community development is working with what you have, rather than being hindered by what you lack.
A community in Africa might lack clean water. The multitude of issues that arise from that one problem — water borne diseases, girls missing school to gather water, and more — make it seem even more complex to address. Installing a clean water well is expensive and time consuming, creating an overwhelming hurdle for many African communities.
However, asset-based community development allows you to look at these problems in a new way.
In Africa, our leaders are trained to look for their assets first. When you partner with Mocha Club leaders, you help this important work happen. Leaders may find they have a community member trained in water engineering, or maybe they discover easy access to piping, or are able to connect with a local storeowner willing to donate a water tank. By educating community members on the direct benefits of clean water, many may volunteer their labor. Leaders may even find that stones, sand, and construction tools are all readily available locally.
Little by little, you help a practical and doable solution take shape.
This is how Mocha Club operates all our programs. You may see poverty around the world and think, I don’t have the money or the time it takes to make a difference. But what might be possible when you consider your assets?
Do you have a passion to help others and the determination to follow through? Do you have some spare change you can set aside during the week? What specific gifts do you have that can be used to tackle poverty? Do you have friends who can combine their efforts with yours?
You are uniquely gifted to make a difference.
So, what would happen in your world if instead of getting stuck in …but I don’t have x, y, or z so I can’t, you reframed your thinking to …I have a, b, and c, so let’s get started?
Consider your assets. You may find you’re closer to making a difference than you think.
Not a member of the Mocha Club giving community? Join Today!
Everyone has a story. And in each individual’s story, they are their own hero – the central figure to their story.
In a neighborhood, to find out what the problems are or the solutions can be, the best way to do that is to listen to the stories of those already in the community. With time, as you build
relationship, trust is given and respect is built. Then, there comes a time where asking questions and offering ideas adds value to the task at hand. But for starters, listen!
Because like it or not, our neighbors are a part of our “we.” The people that live around my house, the colleagues that share my office space, the men and women, boys and girls that go to my church are a part of my community. And I believe there is value in every human being. So the value and strength of my community is directly tied to the people and potential that exists in each of the individuals there. By not knowing them, I can’t know what value, what beauty, what assets they bring to the community. And when the whole is only as great as the sum of its parts, then the whole suffers when the assets of the individuals are not recognized and used. So – get to know your neighbors!
We had a blast teaming up with our friends at Project 615 to be part of their newest #615BusSessions with our other good friend, Jon McLaughlin! Watch Jon’s performance of “Not In This Song” while he drives around Nashville in Dolly, Project 615’s 1978 VW bus. And wait til the end of the video to hear about a fun give-away!
To enter for a chance to win a Project 615 store item, Mocha Club water bottle, and Jon McLaughlin’s album, simply text LEARNMORE to 345345 and share your email with us.
Winner will be announced on April 25th via email. Contest closes April 24th 6pm CST.
Where is it? Probably somewhere there is war. Somewhere the trauma is tangible and palpable. The kind of place you hear about on the news. Right?
That wouldn’t be wrong. But your mochas helped us address trauma in peaceful Malawi.
Why? Because when we listened to our Malawi Country Director, Leonard, here’s what we heard:
“Gender-based violence is a big problem in Malawi. Probably around 40% of women and children face it. It retards development – women are not willing to take up leadership positions because they are filled with fear due to trauma that results from gender-based violence. Many girls are being raped by those who are supposed to protect them and remain quiet for fear of reprisal, resulting in poor performance in school and dropping out. It is taboo to talk about in the public. Right now there are many women and girls dying in silence. Most people have not reached a point of gathering courage to report these matters to police.
So what we are doing now is helping fellow Malawians by training and equipping pastors on trauma issues so they are able to assist those who are traumatized. The good news is that people in Malawi trust pastors and church leaders most and are able to share their secret stories with them. We also are encouraging pastors to break the silence in their churches by talking about issues of gender-based violence. Trauma-healing isn’t only needed in war torn countries like South Sudan and Congo. It is needed everywhere.”
40%. Can you imagine almost half the women and children you pass by today experiencing this kind of abuse? Would you have imagined that you had the power to affect change for them? Because that’s what you did.
Mocha Club believes that change is possible and it starts with investing in the right people. By helping one person lead well, you can help an entire community prosper. So we listened to Leonard, who was hearing a very real need in his community – and that’s how you, Mocha Club member, paved the way for local leaders in Malawi to learn how to listen, respond, and offer safety in instances of gender-based violence.
Haven’t joined the Club yet? For less than $1/day you can educate world-changing leaders to build healthier, more sustainable communities in Africa — just like the ones in Malawi combatting gender-based violence. Join us today.
The first step in caring for someone is to listen to them.
Without attuning to someone, you are moving toward them with your own expectations, assumptions, and perspective. It is only when I stop, quiet my own perspective, and listen to what they are saying and not saying that I can care for them well.
Consider a small child, their cry might be for food or a diaper change or some attention. Only when the care giver is turning their whole attention to the child can they ascertain what the child is really crying for.
So to care well for one another, we must tune in – attune – listen to the person in front of us. At its core, it’s the dignifying response to a person asking to be known by another.
What I love about the work of Mocha Club is uncovering the opportunity and potential that exists as a part of the human spirit. I entered this work like many – wanting to change the world – and continue to be struck at how much bigger that concept is than one person. So what is my piece? What am I to lend my hand to, to lower my shoulder, to dig in, to leverage my voice for?
I’m going to champion the boundless opportunity and possibility – the flourishing and quality of life that is already happening in the places crowded with hunger, desperate in need, struck and stuck in poverty. I want to walk into the room, paint a picture that is so unlike what you were expecting from a non profit president, invite you to the party, and drop the mic. It’s so much more amazing than you could ever dream. (and its more horrifying than words could articulate). Where my western privilege, my graduate education, my religious affiliation taught me to see need; I discovered solutions. Where you see desperation, we see opportunity. We believe that every human being is endowed with value, dignity, skill, and creativity. No matter their age. No matter their condition. No matter their zip code. No matter their education.
And we have a choice. One life-altering, world changing choice. We can choose to leverage all of who we are for one another. To fight for, to include, to passionately dream and pursue, to express, to honor, to champion opportunity and possibility for ourselves and the world around us. The truth is – that’s what makes for a quality of life we all aspire to. That’s what unleashes human potential and drives human flourishing.
A word from Mocha Club President, Emily Blackledge:
You’ve heard us say it over and over: you can make a difference simply by giving up the cost of a few mochas a month. But we’ll be the first to tell you – there’s no comparison between what you give and what you get.
While your lack of caffeine is temporary, your impact is not. Why? Because Mocha Club is dedicated to making sure your mochas matter long-term. Here’s how:
1. Collaborative Relationships : “We” is our favorite pronoun.
If you have been engaged with an organization or visited some of their work and you only hear “us,” “them,” “theirs,” or “mine,” it is a telling example of a group divided. Without shared values, a common vision and dreams, the work being done belongs to only part of the group. In the long run, these projects and partnerships tend to end poorly. Mocha Club’s strategy is different. Your mochas help provide education for local leaders in the form of a community development course of study — a course co-created by representatives from multiple African countries that takes these leaders through the process of identifying, prioritizing, and addressing community needs. The local community development class in Mvera that proposed the water project we told you about on World Water Day spent months surveying neighbors, friends, family, local businesses, schools, and more to get to a consensus on the greatest need in their area. Not the greatest need for one part of the village or the greatest need to one segment of society or even the greatest need as assessed by Mocha Club – the greatest need for the community as a whole, identified by the community as a whole. A community ceremony was just held to lay the foundation stone for the new water project. Here you see traditional leaders, church leaders, police and the Malawi Defence Force, government officials, and local residents. All turned out to collectively celebrate the beginning of the project. Mvera’s original well was built by missionaries and not owned by the community. This time around, “we” is who owns the project – everyone was involved in naming the need and finding a solution, each household will register to use the water and contribute a monthly fee to pay for upkeep and maintenance, and a local committee will be nominated to oversee the project’s continued success. When Mvera residents are still enjoying clean water decades from now, it’s your mochas that made it so.
2. Meaningful Impact: We know who calls the shots.
And it’s not the group of us sitting in offices here in the United States. One of the reasons Mvera has a water shortage is because it is in a hilly area full of rocks and the water springs dry out during the dry season. The other reason is man made. Mvera is in the Dowa district of Malawi – a district that Leonard, our local Country Director, tells us was “the first district in Malawi created by colonial masters” and means “a place of wild animals.” The well in Mvera was originally dug by missionaries. What was once 36 meters deep and fully functional turned into 7 meters deep and not at all sufficient for the community. Local Malawians didn’t determine its location, they weren’t trained on its upkeep, they weren’t involved at any point of the well’s life cycle. During its research, the community development class in Mvera discovered several potential needs during a social analysis – employment, education, health care. But because they approached the situation from a place of “we,” the community of Mvera determined on its own that the most pressing problem was the water shortage. It makes perfect sense — why would a group of people from a different culture, speaking a different language, be able to determine the best course of action for a community halfway across the world? How would my community know if the next best tool for the Mvera community is a grade school or a water well or a pig farm? Your mochas matter because the people calling the shots are the ones on the ground, the ones that know their communities inside and out.
3. Creative Solutions: We build with what we have.
An accurate understanding of reality is important, but leading with the worst qualities doesn’t really inspire anyone’s participation. We already know that without everyone’s engagement, without “we,” development isn’t sustainable. When strategy is focused on what is working – assets to build on, tools that already exist – you can do things you had no idea could be done. For example, in researching the options for a water solution in Mvera, the local class discovered that they already had much of what they needed – river sand, rocks, quarry stones, manpower, and expertise. They consulted professional builders in the community, engineers, the local electricity supplier, a pipe company, and the local government. Once this project is complete, they’ve already dreamed of building on it and expanding access to more and more people. Building with what you have attracts others (and their talents and resources) to join the dream. Asset-based development makes your mochas matter long into the future.
I am glad to report that the Mvera water project is progressing well. After the laying of the Foundation Stone, people in the community began the work and it has been very successful. Right now the community is mobilizing locally available resources for the construction of the tank (water reservoir). Here are photos showing the laying of the foundation stone and the actual work beginning. – Leonard Chipangano, Malawi Country Director
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.
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.