‘It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.’ – Ursula Le Guin
Just over a year ago, I embarked upon an extraordinary journey as part of a collaboration with Taylors of Harrogate, (tea and coffee producers extraordinaire) and the fantastic creative collective with heart that is Creating for Good, all in support of Women for Women, a wonderful charity that helps women survivors of war to rebuild their lives.
I’ve travelled up and down the country as a part of this project, from Gloucestershire to the Yorkshire Dales, to London, and back again, and have visited some beautiful locations on the way. I’ve been lucky enough to meet the loveliest group of people I could have hoped for: my fellow creatives, the Creating for Good folk, the Taylors, Finn Communication and Women for Women teams, the experts and workshop hosts, all have been a pleasure to spend time with, and have taught me so much.
I’ve taken part in amazing creative workshops, each with a storytelling focus, learning about photography, videography, cookery and more. We’ve devoured plentiful meals from the brilliant Women for Women cookbook and, most of all, I’ve learned more than I could have imagined about the way that Taylors create teas, coffees, and infusions that taste extraordinary by using extremely good ingredients, creating clever blends and building close relationships with the best growers in the world. Yes, I have enjoyed a lot of good cuppas and endless cups of delicious coffee!
I’ve discovered the many ways in which Taylors support their tea and coffee growing communities in Rwanda. Projects such as The Women’s Committee at Kopakama, which began as an informal group created in 2008 by over 100 female members; mainly women affected by the Rwandan genocide. They began working together, growing coffee on a demonstration farming plot, which they named Ejo Heza or ‘A Beautiful Tomorrow’. The plot has enabled more women to be members of the cooperative and to directly benefit from coffee farming. Coffee produced in the Ejo Heza field, and from female members’ own trees, is all processed as ‘Women’s Coffee’, with the best quality coffee being sold through the Kopakama Coffee cooperative.
In 2016, Taylors started buying coffee from the cooperative and supported them in achieving Rainforest Alliance certification. In 2017, they partnered with Twin Trading on a project to improve the livelihood opportunities and quality of life for female coffee farmers and their families. Thanks to the project, and to Taylors’ support, female farmers have been trained in good agricultural practices so that they can improve the quality of their crop. They’ve taken part in classes in financial literacy and business basics and received short-term loans so they can grow their farming practices as well as diversify their income.
From rural villages to the national parliament where women hold two-thirds of the seats, women in Rwanda are leading the rebuilding of their country. In the aftermath of the devastating 1994 Genocide, the challenge of creating a lasting peace depended greatly on the actions of women, who were the majority of survivors.
Women for Women offer a year-long training programme for women, which equips them to earn money, regain their confidence and actively participate in their communities. They also provide specialised vocational training to cooperatives formed by programme graduates. As part of our Creating For Good Extraordinary Journey, Taylors have donated to Women for Women on our behalves. If you’d like to help Women for Women, you can sponsor a woman survivor of war through the sponsor a sister programme.
For family reasons, my personal extraordinary journey has had to come to an end, and I’m disappointed that on this occasion, I won’t be seeing the lakes, mountains, tea and coffee plantations of Rwanda, or meeting the women whose stories I have heard so much about. My fellow travellers will be continuing their journey to Rwanda in the spring, so do follow them as they reach their final, and truly extraordinary destination, and share the stories that they find there:
I’d like to extend huge thanks to the Taylors, Creating for Good and Finn Communication teams who have made my journey possible. It’s been a delight and a privilege to walk with you along this extraordinary path, and I wish you all the very best as you continue on to Rwanda.