In Gear | Rotary in Southern New Zealand In Gear - Issue 3 - Page 19

human rights, protecting the environment and operating with a robust business model. “So we have to change, we have to change our way of thinking, And, it isn’t up to the families – it isn’t their responsibility to change, because we were coming into their environment. We have to change. “Just because, for example, we’re working with disabilities issues, doesn’t mean to ... everything we do should say we don’t have consider the impact on earth, responsibilities back because we all share it – to the earth, like sowing nutrients disabled or not.” back into the land. “This is something that everyone has a responsibility to, and should be tied into everything we do; everything we do should consider the impact on earth, because we all share it – disabled or not.” The families The Lucy Foundation is working with live in poverty, often supporting young and adult children with disabilities on a pittance. Their rare coffee plants present a gateway to hope, inclusion and financial freedom. “So, we’re helping them learn about specialty coffee processes. Large-scale coffee production traditionally uses machines and more resistant trees. “It’s isolated, there are no banks – things take time. And that’s been a huge learning curve. “If we were a business looking at pure productivity and profit, we would go in there and go: ‘Bam, bam, bam – let’s do this, this and this’, and we’d probably have a great product at the end of it. But, we’d just be another business.” With the New Zealand team now on the ground, a 2ha plot’s been leased and serves as a classroom for the families. Some have their own land, others don’t. The overarching goal is for the families to become self- employed, and empowered, from their own coffee crop. It is, says Robbie, a gradual, careful process, because they can’t afford to risk whatever current employment they do have. “Specialty coffee is very much focused on the best. You don’t pick everything off the plant – you only pick the ripe cherries. If you pick everything, and you’re getting paid by paid weight, it makes sense to pick everything. But, it makes the coffee inconsistent and of lower quality. “So, picking the right cherries, at the right time, with the right touch, the right smell, the right flavour, that can be a good job for people with certain disabilities, like autism, who can be great at sorting.” The team’s initial research showed poverty at the root of virtually all of the families’ problems, so, for them, another imperative is financial sustainability. “They didn’t have money for medication, so they became more unwell. They didn’t have a roof over their head because they couldn’t pay rent. They just couldn’t go to school, so they couldn’t get a job, so they couldn’t earn money. It’s just a vicious cycle,” Robbie says. Planning started three years ago, and The Lucy Foundation has just finished its all-important pilot season, which included two New Zealand members arriving in September to be part of the onsite team. The first harvest in December was modest, but what’s been reaped to date is far more important to ongoing success – trust and community buy-in. “They don’t trust easily, because they‘ve had so many people come in and try their business ideas or, just take the mickey out of them really. Robbie and fellow foundation members Jessica Pantoja-Sanders and Ryan Sanders, with coffee seedlings in Mexico. Open-air education “The land we have is almost like a classroom. It’s where families come in and they do workshops; they learn new processes, like composting – very simple agricultural ideas, but we design the workshops in a way that’s totally accessible for anyone of any ability. “So, the families with disabilities can be 100 percent involved and then they, too, become an expert. We invite other people from the community, other locals in the region who are experts in organic coffee – things that we might not know about, but they can come and teach, so it becomes a sharing of knowledge and that knowledge is free. Page 19