Coffee brewer to finish Run Across Ethiopia

Bean North Coffee Roasting Co.’s co-owner Helen Voogd, 43, is doing her part to give back to the source of some of her company’s delectable brews.

Bean North Coffee Roasting Co.’s co-owner Helen Voogd, 43, is doing her part to give back to the source of some of her company’s delectable brews.

Thursday, Voogd will begin the final leg of the Run Across Ethiopia, a 400-kilometre ultramarathon fundraiser beginning in the capital Addis Ababa to the Yirgacheffe region in southern Ethiopia.

The 12-day run, which started on January 8, is intended to raise about $100,000 for education in coffee-growing areas of the African nation. For Voogd, it’s a two-bird-one-stone situation – she hopes the event will raise awareness of the value of fair trade.

“I think it’s a great project, a great way to raise awareness of education – a lot of these kids don’t have access to things my child has access to,” she said. “It’s really neat to see this happen. One fellow has an idea and it just grows and grows.

“For the coffee part, it’s a good way to raise awareness of fair trade – it’s a good way to do business. It’s fair for everyone along the path.”

The Whitehorse resident is one of 12 coffee company representatives from throughout Canada and the US participating in the run, which will funnel money to the Tesfa Foundation, an international charity aimed at helping impoverished children, and the Oromia Cooperative Farmers Co-operative Union (OCFCU) that represents 129 fair trade coffee co-operatives.

“My business, Bean North Coffee, is part of a coffee co-op that has 24 members across Canada and the States and one of our members, Higher Grounds out of Traverse City, Michigan – this run was the brainchild of his and he’s been working on it for years,” said Voogd. “Because of our business – we have business meetings in Ethiopia as well – we tied these two events together. So I’m going on business to meet coffee farmers and some of the co-operatives we buy our fair trade coffee from, and these two events happen to be at the same time.”

Though living an active lifestyle, Voogd is actually new to running, only completing her first 10-kilometre run – the length of the final leg – just two weeks ago.

“I’m not really a runner,” said Voogd. “I ski, I hike, I ride my bike; I’m pretty active, but I’ve never really run. So this has taken me out of my comfort zone. It’s been fun – I like it. We’ll see where I take it in the future.

“I like the rush, I can see why people like it, but it’s new for me.”

In Ethiopia coffee exports account for more than half of the country’s GDP, yet many farmers of the plant live in poverty. In the Yirgacheffe region, the source of some of Ethiopia’s finest coffee, just over half of the area’s children finish primary school and only about a third of adults are literate. However, in the Negele Gorbitu region, where coffee is grown and sold in the fair trade model under the OCFCU, the community afforded to build a health clinic and a school, now filled to capacity.

To make a donation contact Bean North at (867) 667-4145 or info@beannorth.com, or you can donate directly to Run Across Ethiopia by following the “donate” link at ontheground.org.

Contact Tom Patrick at tomp@yukon-news.com