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Karen Cebreros

Women of Coffee Microfinance Fund: Empowering Women & Saving Lives

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Women of Coffee Microfinance Fund: Empowering Women & Saving Lives

Words by Marcel Reyes, SDCN Blog Senior Editor. 

Women in Business (WIB) in association with the International Women's Coffee Alliance (IWCA) invite you to attend “A Night of Conscious Coffee” at the San Diego Central Library located at 330 Park Boulevard on Mar. 10, 2016, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. This event is free and open to the public.

The evening will begin with a tour of the Library, progress to a tour of coffee vendors, roasters, and businesses to learn about coffee from farm to cup. Pastry and coffee tasting flights will be available. The event will close with "A Small Section of the World" documentary film and a panel discussion with special guests Martin Diedrich of Kean Coffee and Lisa Lindgren, human-trafficking expert. 

Martin Diedrich of Kean Coffee

Martin Diedrich of Kean Coffee

“A Small Section of the World,” is an inspiring documentary about the Asomobi women’s coffee association in Costa Rica who manage to create a sustainable living through coffee against all odds. Following the screening, a panel discussion will speak to the synergy that entrepreneurship has with not only improving economic stations, but also better positioning women to be safe in their domestic situations.

In September 2015, when Karen Cebreros, Co-Founder of the IWCA, toured the Central Library in downtown San Diego, she was just looking for a little space to host a special joint meeting between the IWCA and her colleagues in Women in Business. She was hoping the rental cost would fit the meeting budget.
They toured the massive 350-seat auditorium with adult programming and special events coordinator, Erwin Magbanua, and discussed “A Small Section of the World,” a film they planned to watch together, as a milestone for joining forces toward the empowerment of women at origin worldwide. Magbanua was moved, asked if the public could possibly attend, and waived the considerable rental fee. Cebreros’s special meeting was upgraded to a special event.

The Women of Coffee Micro-finance Fund will do more than stimulate families economically. It will save women’s lives. “The issue of Women in Coffee is connected directly to the issue of human trafficking and abuse,” Cebreros reflects on the mission behind the mission. “Until this March 10th event, we’ve never really had the right venue to explore it.”

Karen Cebreros of Women of Coffee Micro-Finance Fund and Co-Founder of the IWCA. Photo by  Julie Rings .

Karen Cebreros of Women of Coffee Micro-Finance Fund and Co-Founder of the IWCA. Photo by Julie Rings.

Last year, “A Small Section of the World” was screened at the Museum of Photographic Arts as a “Women in Coffee Film Event”, where it made $7,000 for the Women Of Coffee Micro-finance Fund, in one night, through the generosity of 141 people. That night impacted the growth of the Mexican micro-finance bank and opened the Colombian micro-finance bank. This past January 2016 saw more momentum when the IWCA closed a global grant with Rotary in the Southern California district for $50,000 to go to the Guatemalan micro-finance bank.

“97% of women pay back their micro-finance loans no matter what country or social strata,” Cebreros explains. “When you put money in women’s hands, it is paid back.” 

Measurable empowerment is key because, explains Cebreros, without tangible value, these women become vulnerable to abuse: “We found out that 65% of women are abused in Costa Rica, in the cities. It’s even worse in the country, at 85%.” With microcredit, cottage industries start adding revenue streams that flow into every area of life. “It stimulates the local economies. And more importantly, men tend to stop beating women when they view them as a better asset. Sadly, some see their wives as no different from goats and coffee.” When a woman demonstrates hard cash value, she stands a better chance of being saved.

From left to right: Mansi Chokshi, SCAA Director of Membership; Martin Diedrich, Kean Coffee; Karen Cebreros, Women of Coffee Micro-finance Fund and Co-founder of the IWCA. Photo by  Julie Rings .

From left to right: Mansi Chokshi, SCAA Director of Membership; Martin Diedrich, Kean Coffee; Karen Cebreros, Women of Coffee Micro-finance Fund and Co-founder of the IWCA. Photo by Julie Rings.

“Organic was born in San Diego. Fair trade was born in San Diego,” Karen asserts establishing San Diego as the origin, and corner of "Conscious Coffee" in the US. “But, for a long time, nothing was changing for women at origin. Women In Coffee is born [as part of the mission of the IWCA]. We adopt the same bylaws of WIB [Women in Business]. Fast forward—we reach even more women today. In April, at the Annual Specialty Coffee Association Show, we’re signing our 20th chapter, in Cameroon.”

The San Diego coffee community of professionals and enthusiasts are invited to this free, social, and educational event at the beautiful San Diego Central Library. 

Photo by  Julie Rings . 

Photo by Julie Rings

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San Diego Declared “Conscious Corner of Coffee” at “A Small Section of the World” Film Screening Event

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San Diego Declared “Conscious Corner of Coffee” at “A Small Section of the World” Film Screening Event

By Marcel Reyes, SDCN Staff Writer. Photos by Julie Rings, SDCN Contributor

Karen Cebreros. Photo by Julie Rings. 

Karen Cebreros. Photo by Julie Rings. 

Coffee roasted by Daymar.  Photo by Julie Rings. 

Coffee roasted by Daymar. Photo by Julie Rings. 

Karen Cebreros, President and Founder of Women of Coffee Inc., member of the Specialty Coffee Association of America for over 18 years and is a Founder of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA), is no stranger to speaking passionately about women in coffee to huge crowds. Underneath the starry ceiling installation of the Museum of Photographic Arts’ Joan and Irwin Jacobs Theater, she introduced the film while earnestly describing the noble call-to-action of the Women of Coffee Microfinance Fund, committed to providing a creative and sustainable approach to achieve women's economic equality and stability.

 But there was a special gravitas to her voice as she emphatically declared San Diego to be the “conscious corner of coffee” in the US, to resounding applause. “Organics were born here, the first licenses for fair trade were born here, and we pioneered microcredit in coffee here,” Karen said.

Karen Cebreros, Mansi Chokshi and Martin Diedrich.   Photo by Julie Rings. 

Karen Cebreros, Mansi Chokshi and Martin Diedrich.  Photo by Julie Rings. 

May 20, 2015 was a special evening dedicated to highlighting the gender equity that continues to be an issue for women in coffee, from small origin farms to large corporations, the San Diego Coffee Network film screening of “A Small Section of the World” at the MOPA was also an earnest plea to recognize the need for greater financial resources to make their way back to the farmers, as revenues funnel through the supply-chain from tree to cup. This film event is the first collaboration between Daymar Coffee Roasters, Pureflo Water and the San Diego Coffee Network, and is the second educational coffee film that the SDCN has screened since last year’s “A Film About Coffee.”

Norman Tiznado  and Staff Member of Daymar Coffee Roasters. 

Norman Tiznado and Staff Member of Daymar Coffee Roasters. 

Norman Tiznado  and attendees enjoying Daymar Coffee.  Photo by Julie Rings. 

Norman Tiznado and attendees enjoying Daymar Coffee. Photo by Julie Rings. 

Kelly Crosby of Pureflo. Photo by Julie Rings. 

Kelly Crosby of Pureflo. Photo by Julie Rings. 

Pastry by Corner Bakery. Photo by Julie Rings. 

Pastry by Corner Bakery. Photo by Julie Rings. 

The doors opened at 6pm for a pre-event mixer where the sponsors Earth's Choice Organic Coffee Company, Daymar Coffee, PureFlo, and InterContinental Coffee Trading offered samples of women-sourced organic coffees and expertise to the special room of 140 coffee enthusiasts. Corner Bakery offered a bevy of pastry selections to complement the PureFlo Café coffees, PureFlo’s special partnership with Daymar Fine Coffees and the Specialty Coffee Association of America.

Sasha Boubion, Marketing & Logistics Coordinator at InterContinental Coffee Trading. Photo by Julie Rings. 

Sasha Boubion, Marketing & Logistics Coordinator at InterContinental Coffee Trading. Photo by Julie Rings. 

The support of industry professionals was eminent. We were honored to have guests from various coffee companies in our city. Large support came from the teams of Café Moto, Café Virtuoso, Bird Rock Coffee Roasters, InterAmerican, and Kettle Coffee and Tea all the way from Escondido!  Also, we were incredibly humbled to have both Martin Diedrich and Mansi Chokishi, who drove from OC just for this event. The social hour was packed with great energy. Introductions and coffee talk were punctured by laughter and warm hellos.

Cafe Virtuoso: Laurie Britton, Savannah Britton, Mary Jhun and Nicole Lyon. Photo by Julie RIngs. 

Cafe Virtuoso: Laurie Britton, Savannah Britton, Mary Jhun and Nicole Lyon. Photo by Julie RIngs. 

Pablo Lara, Bird Rock Coffee Roasters. Bucky Montero, Radio Pulso del Barrio. Marcel Reyes, SDCN Staff Writer. Araceli Hernandez. Photo by Julie RIngs. 

Pablo Lara, Bird Rock Coffee Roasters. Bucky Montero, Radio Pulso del Barrio. Marcel Reyes, SDCN Staff Writer. Araceli Hernandez. Photo by Julie RIngs. 

Major sponsor Earth’s Choice Organic Coffee Company, sourcing from Chiapas and Guatemala, partners with local organizations and businesses to bring microfinance services to women organic coffee producers through the Women of Coffee Microfinance Fund. These women producers invest their business loans in new or current ventures. Their business earnings repay the loans and provide support for health, nutrition and education for their families and communities.

Collaborations between passionate individuals create a far-reaching impact. Earth’s Choice Café seeks to bring sustainable consumption of coffee to the masses, via an automated café. Attendees had the opportunity to see the machine in person and enjoy demos. Daymar Coffee is roasting the coffee sourced by Earth’c Choice.

 Karen Cebreros, Roy Gallegos of Daymar Coffee, Kelly Cosby of PureFlo, and Lisa Colon of InterContinental Coffee Trading spoke to the audience as well prior to the film.

Roy Gallegos, Daymar Coffee Roasters. Photo by Julie Rings. 

Roy Gallegos, Daymar Coffee Roasters. Photo by Julie Rings. 

Kelly Crosby, Preflo Water. Photo by Julie Rings. 

Kelly Crosby, Preflo Water. Photo by Julie Rings. 

Lisa Colon, InterContinental Coffee Trading. Photo by Julie Rings. 

Lisa Colon, InterContinental Coffee Trading. Photo by Julie Rings. 

 “A Small Section of the World, directed by Leslie Chilcott, is an inspiring documentary that tracks the Asomobi coffee farm's incredible journey of female entrepreneurship in a remote farming region of the world - from a discouragingly male chauvinistic business culture, through a series of literal and emotional fires, to a destined meeting with an illy Executive that forever changes an economy.”

 

Following the film, Karen Cebreros invited the largely female staff of InterAmerican Coffee to the stage, introducing them as glass ceiling breakers. Sheridan Owings Banta lead the team in describing not only their passions surrounding coffee, but also their female leadership throughout InterAmerican.

The lovely ladies of InterAmerican Coffee invited on stage by Karen Cebreros. Photo by Julie Rings. 

The lovely ladies of InterAmerican Coffee invited on stage by Karen Cebreros. Photo by Julie Rings. 

 Mansi Chokshi, Director of Membership at the SCAA and serving on the Board of Directors at the IWCA, reiterated her own personal passion to help empower women in coffee as well as reaffirming it as a priority of the SCAA via its support of organizations like the IWCA.

 Karen introduced Martin Diedrich, Founder of the original Diedrich Coffee, and now Owner and President of Kean Coffee, as an “icon in our industry.” He was among the first to donate to the Women of Coffee Microfinance Fund beta in Guatemala, a program which success helped position the fund for a four-country launch. The evening closed with Martin reminiscing about his family’s journey through coffee farming and eventually roasting and operating cafes, a full-cycle endeavor that mirrored the women of Asomobi’s evolving enterprises. “My grandma had a Costa Rican farm, and ended up in Guatemala on a very small piece of land growing coffee beans. In the morning we picked coffee and raked it, we had to hand-crank the de-pulpers which we all made excuses to try and avoid doing.” Diedrich shared how his father taught him high standards about farming such as plant and animal diversity, and watershed protection, which were inadvertently pioneering organic growing concepts as far back at the 60’s and 70’s.

“We are an industry of very entrepreneurial people,” Martin opined. “And are deep thinkers, and are very creative – and that makes a huge difference, as an example to other industries. At origin, it’s a hand-to-mouth existence, generation after generation, in a cash economy. These farmers are indentured to a cash crop. It’s time for a paradigm of change.”

 

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