Empty Bellies + Open Hands

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Have you ever skipped a meal? If you have, then I am sure you know the discomfort that hunger pains can cause. There are children in Haiti who wake up every morning uncertain of their next meal. There is a child who is currently experiencing discomfort from hunger and weakness from the lack of proper nutrition. Bichard Bonnet, the president of our coffee association (APIAB) in Thiotte, Haiti, recently brought to my attention that he had been feeding 300+ children and paying out of his own pocket … talk about a selfless man. He expressed his desire to keep the feeding program going, but was worried due to his financial limitations. Naturally, he can’t keep this up by himself. I don’t think many people could feed 300+ children for a long period of time. I promised Bichard that I would do something about this and share the responsibility.

Bichard Bonnet, the president of our coffee association.

Bichard Bonnet, the president of our coffee association.

The raw, honest truth is that two out of three Haitians live on less than $2 per day. Just think of three close friends you have. Two of them would be starving. What would you do? Turn your head and pretend you are not aware of the situation? I look at these statistics and see people, not numbers. It’s two out of three moms, wives, school teachers, babies, dads, husbands, farmers, taxi drivers, do I need to go on? We hear compelling statistics, but the problem with statistics is that they are numbers with no follow through. Numbers without action is equivalent to supporting the problem instead of the solution. Let’s think past the numbers on this next statistic: one-third of women and children in Haiti are anemic. That means that there are children and women in Haiti right now that are experiencing the negative and crippling side effects of anemia. An anemic person’s body has an abnormally low amount of red blood cells. Because of this, they experience fatigue, skin pallor, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, dizziness, or an increased heart rate, along with other symptoms. You don’t need to be a doctor to know that anemia causes discomfort (to say the least) and is a serious issue. It can even lead to heart disease, since the heart is overworked for having to compensate for the lack of blood cells. Anemia is just one of the many diseases that are caused by malnutrition.

I think we all would say and agree that we want to end world hunger. We all want to put food in babies’ bellies and stand in unity, fighting against malnutrition globally and locally. I have dreamed of fighting against world hunger before, but it wasn’t until Bichard reached out to me, that I woke up from my selfish mentality of believing that I had to wait for the “right time” to start a nutrition program. Last time I checked, there are starving children who do not have time to wait for the “right time.” To them, right now is the right time. If I were in their shoes, it would be very difficult to hear someone tell me that it wasn’t the “right time” to provide a meal, or that they “shouldn’t give financially right now because ___________.” I can’t help but think about how overlooked, objectified and dehumanized, people in other countries feel. We give them a number instead of a name, a sympathetic look instead of a meal, and we make excuses to justify our reasons not to give. We all have done it, and I know that I’ve definitely made excuses for not helping by saying things like, “I need to get my finances straight before I help someone else,” Or, “I need to invest my time & money into my company before investing into a nutrition program.” I hate to admit it, but that last excuse has actually come out of my mouth. How selfish of me. We are taught to take care of ourselves before we take care of others, and that’s not inherently a selfish mentality, but I personally feel convicted to switch the logic of “me first, then you” around. I want to see what would happen to a company that starts to live with open hands, even when giving isn’t logical or financially affordable. I want to see what will happen to my own life if I start to live with the knowledge that the things I’ve been blessed with aren’t just for myself, but to put me into a position to give back to others. I firmly believe that there is a generous spirit in each and every person, and sometimes it just takes encouragement from someone else to draw it out. Just like Bichard drew mine out.

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With that being said, Salt + Light Coffee Co. has a goal of raising $4,000 to fund at least 100 meal kits for families in Thiotte. These meal kits will provide bananas, rice, cooking oil, beans and maize. In addition to the food, we will be hosting a party for our coffee farmers and the families in the surrounding area, to help take their minds off of their daily troubles and bring some joy back into their lives. We will also give the children toys such as, mini soccer balls, jump ropes and books (written in Creole). The time is now, because the needs are immediate — which means we have a very short time to raise the money (a month at the latest), so we need YOUR help! We are not strictly accepting monetary donations, but are also accepting *gently* used toys, art supplies, coloring books and any other items that may bring joy and happiness into a child’s life. For sustainability purposes, we will be purchasing all the food in Haiti and hiring translators, as well as drivers to provide more jobs in the process! My company and myself will give towards this goal. Will you partner with us?

Every. Single. Dollar. Matters. If you are unable to give financially, then please join us in prayer for the people of Haiti and for protection and safety while we are there. Share this blog, share our GoFundMe page, share the story of our company, and share with everyone you come in contact with. There is power in a group of people who stand in unity, fighting for the same cause.

Haiti is a country of giving people. They live with open hands and empty bellies. How great of an impact do you think we could make with full bellies and open hands?

https://www.gofundme.com/jdf9w8-empty-bellies-open-hands

Dancing on Disappointment




PC: Ivory & Lace Photography

PC: Ivory & Lace Photography

Emotionally drained, physically aching, mentally shut-down, and spiritually desperate. Does that sentence strike a chord with you? It sure does with me. I know all too well what it is like to be battle worn and the damage it does to your body. Life is a battle. It truly is! We have so many demands pulling on us every single day. It feels as if life is working against us and doing its best to bring us to our knees in utter defeat and exhaustion. I have been down many times throughout this one and a half year journey of Salt + Light Coffee Co. Life always finds a way to get to us. I can think of two occasions I’ve been physically on my knees in a desperate state, due to heavy demands and desires that left me disappointed and anxious.

The first time was about a month (if that) into creating Salt + Light Coffee Co. I was eighteen years old and trying to figure out the best way to ship 500 coffee bags to Port Au Prince, Haiti. In the end, I sent them down via UPS, and it cost me nearly $400 dollars. Yikes! Let me tell you, spending $400 dollars on shipping bags as a young adult hurt me big time, and I began to think I wouldn’t actually have the money to go through with creating the company. So, I did what any girl would do … I cried … and cried some more, and desperately begged God to supply me with the rest of the funds. *Spoiler alert*: In case you didn’t know, He did ;)

Kelsey + I at the Cleveland Flea. Picture by Adrienne Gerber.

Kelsey + I at the Cleveland Flea. Picture by Adrienne Gerber.

The second time was when I came so close to purchasing the space of my dreams. It was an old, empty house perfectly situated by a busy shopping center and a university. With a few renovations, it would have been a perfect coffee shop. For those of you who do not know, Salt + Light has been looking for a space to open a coffee shop! Anyways, as I was saying, I was just wrapping things up and getting my ducks in a row to put an offer on the home when it sold. So. Dang. Quickly. I mean, it was on the market, and before the sign even said “sale pending” it was off of the market. I was so devastated! I had my hopes up on this house and truly believed, with every ounce of my being, that this space was meant to be.

I remember being on my knees in my living room sobbing. I mean, I was ugly crying. I felt sick to my stomach and ended up peeling myself off of the floor to replant myself on the bathroom floor just in case I got sick. I looked in the mirror and quickly looked away. I had been crying so long and hard, that I didn’t even want to look at my teary eyed, battle worn face. It was the weirdest thing ever, because it was just a house. There were plenty of other available spaces that I could have purchased, but there was something so special about this house, and I wanted it so badly for myself and the company. Needless to say, I bounced back from both moments. However, it isn’t always easy to bounce back, recover and recuperate from “battle” moments, and times of disappointments.

Although I am by no means a pro at bouncing back and re-grouping after a roadblock, I do feel that I have learned a few tips & tricks along the way. However, I feel that it is important to mention that learning how to bounce back and recover physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually after an event no matter the magnitude, is something that you have to learn on your own. I have read so many self-help books on stress management, “how to keep your spirits up” articles and blogs from just about every blog writer out there, but through the course of time and struggles, I figured out a few things that have helped me. It’s very important to figure out for yourself what works for you. So, instead of writing another blog on tips to recover, manage stress & push through difficult times, I wanted to simply encourage you. Things will get better. You are equipped and empowered to face every obstacle and climb every mountain. You may not feel like it, but let me encourage you: don’t base things off of your feelings! Our emotions are our enemy sometimes, and when things get tough, the stress is real, and the anxiety is knocking at the door. The best thing we can do is fix our focus. Scale up the mountain in front of you, start climbing, and teach your feet to dance upon the disappointment.

PC: Adrienne Gerber

PC: Adrienne Gerber

Hear me out, disappointment is real. I have experienced the crippling effects that it often brings, but do you know what else? The power & strength within you is real too. I am not trying to underestimate the stronghold of disappointments, but rather help you see that you are more than whatever it is that you are facing today, and more importantly, you are stronger than you think.

The battles you are facing, whether that incorporates anxiety, stress, depression, financial difficulties, or something as simple as trying to figure out how in the heck to ship 500 bags to Port Au Prince, Haiti, it all is just a season. Like everything in life, the battles you are facing will eventually come to and end. Grab ahold of something that will keep you going. Think about why, or who you are doing this for. For me personally, my faith, passion, and empathy, drive me into action and keep me going.

I want to wrap this up by reminding you and reiterating, that you are capable of doing more than you could ever imagine. We were never intended to live mediocre lives, but lives that are rich and full of obstacles that push us to the next level. As you continue on your journey, fix your focus and train your feet to dance upon the disappointments. Someday, you will look back and feel a sense of pride seeing how far you have come, and trust me, that feeling makes it all worthwhile.

I Am Rich.

Thiotte, Haiti - 10.22.17

Thiotte, Haiti - 10.22.17

I am rich. That’s a bold statement, right? When we think of riches, we think of wealth. But, one thing I have learned recently, is that I am rich not because of my wealth, but because of my opportunities, resources, friends, family, abundance of food, clean water, my car, my home, and the list could go on. Riches do not equal wealth. In fact, the definition of richness is “the state of existing in or containing plentiful quantities of something desirable.” According to the definition, you can be rich just by “existing in” riches. My guess is that you are existing in riches if you are reading this blog. I am existing in riches right now. I am in my cozy bed, with my heater on, using an iPad and under a roof. Simply being under a roof is a luxury. My driver in Haiti, Charles, told me when it rains in Haiti, some people cannot even sit down or sleep. They have to stand the whole time because they have nowhere dry to lie. So they find the driest spot possible, and they stand and wait, and wait some more. Their stomachs are empty, and their feet are wet. Even when the rain stops, they have nowhere to go, because everything they would typically sleep on is saturated. And we complain about the rain from our warm homes.

Here is a picture of Charles enjoying a cup of coffee with one of our farmers, Merisier Mariane.

Here is a picture of Charles enjoying a cup of coffee with one of our farmers, Merisier Mariane.

I am so guilty of this, and honestly, being grateful is something I never truly understood until I saw firsthand what it is like to go without. For example, can you imagine the levels of panic that would flood the states if there was a food scarcity? We eat without even feeling hungry. We eat because we can, and we throw out what we don’t want. Charles grew up with a single mother, who gave him and his siblings salt water to make their bellies feel full. He also told me that he didn’t know how to answer Americans when we asked him if he was hungry. He said, “You feed me at 9am and then ask me if I am hungry at 10am. No, I am not hungry, but I do want to eat. I wish you asked me if I wanted to eat instead, because then I could say yes. But, I cannot tell you I am hungry, because I know what it is like to be hungry.” After that, I promised myself I would never let the words, “I am starving” come out of my mouth.

I’m just on a roll with stories so, why stop now? I will never forget talking to one of our coffee farmers, Noël. I asked her how she liked her coffee. It’s typical for Haitians to drink their coffee with sugar, so in a roundabout way, I was asking if she added any sugar to her coffee. It was an ignorant question, but I do not regret asking it, because her response rocked my world. She said, “Well, when I have money, I buy bread and I drink my coffee with bread.”

This is one of my favorite pictures of Noël. It captures her spunky + energetic spirit!

This is one of my favorite pictures of Noël. It captures her spunky + energetic spirit!

After that particular trip to Haiti, I walked into a coffee shop and started to get a little bummed. I was thinking about how much money I just spent on that trip and how low my bank account looked. Remember, I am walking into a coffee shop to buy my $4 pour over, and on top of that, I still had enough money to buy as many loaves of bread that I wanted. Instantly, I thought of Noël, which stopped my pity party in its tracks. I honestly hope this is not condemning you, but rather, convicting and encouraging you to be thankful for what you have.

I remember feeling guilty after my first trip to Haiti, but I quickly bounced back and learned that we are blessed to be a blessing. It’s one thing to know that you are blessed, but it's another thing to bless someone else. There is nothing wrong with your riches. The only time riches become wrong is when we become selfish with them. Here is what we need to understand: we can be financially broke and simultaneously rich at the same time. I am not going to lie, my mind was blown when I heard that statement, and it took me a while to understand it. Broke is temporary and refers to money. Broke doesn’t mean poor, either. Poor and poverty are both mindsets and terms that classify income levels. Even if we are broke, many of us still have rich lives. Or, you could replace the word rich with full. Please hear me out, I understand poverty. Trust me, I know it's not easy to have a “rich” perspective on life when your car payment is due, and you are scraping the bottom of your bank account just to keep your car on the road. I am a twenty year old, small business owner that is still in the start-up stage — I understand financial demands and the pain we can experience from them. However, I also want to encourage you to look at the positives and understand that there are many who are living with much less, yet still find so much contentment and joy in life.

Our most recent trip to our farmers was pretty rough. It took 6.5 hours of driving on extremely difficult roads (y’all, I am talking about a road that was also a dried up river),  no bathrooms, and no spare water, a flat tire, and overheated the car on the side of a cliff. But do you know what Charles said when asked if he knew how difficult the trip would be? He chuckled and said, “ No, but..” he paused for a second, “Morgan had a dream.” Instantly I felt the sting of tears in my eyes. This man, that lives with less “riches” than I do every single day, was willing to sacrifice so much in order to fulfill my dream.

Charles and I talking with our farmers!

Charles and I talking with our farmers!

I want to be more like Charles. I want to be a giver, even if it means I am giving up something I love for the sake of others. Gosh, it’s so dang difficult though! I want to live with a “rich” perspective, rather than a “wealthy” perspective. Will you join me in this? After all, we will not be known for what we take in life, but by what we give.

If I Quit; The Selfishness of Quitting

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Hi there, friends!

So, I drive a lot…like a lot. I live about 30 minutes from all civilization, not to mention I’m an extrovert (not a good combination). Most days, I do not mind but, it would be a lie to say that I love living in the country and driving all. the. dang. time. I have found that amidst my busy, crazy, go-go-go schedule my drive has become my cherished thinking time. Typically, I get pretty deep into my thoughts and start solving the world’s problems (at least I like to think so). The other day, I began thinking about quitting. I was tired and defeated. I didn’t know what I was doing and even now, I’m still figuring it out as I go. I had thoughts of insecurity rushing through my mind: I felt like someone else could manage my position better, I felt that my company was just “mediocre,” and I felt like a fraud. Pro tip: don’t listen to those thoughts. They can easily become beliefs and keep you from pursuing your dreams. My deep thinking on this topic lead me to this conclusion that I wanted to share with you. Let me know your thoughts! I always love hearing from you all!

Have you ever pondered the ramifications of quitting? It’s not really something that we typically put much thought into, or a hot topic at the dinner table, but I believe it’s something we should take into consideration more often. Many of us weigh out our pros and cons when we are trying to make a decision and we contemplate what the consequences are, but many times the focus is on us. We think about the ramifications and the benefits for ourselves, but we don’t think about how our decisions could potentially hurt others. Let's unpack this thought.

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There is a passion and a dream inside of you that the world needs. Our dreams and passions are never for ourselves. Yes, our passions will better our lives by giving us a sense of fulfillment and can oftentimes fill us with a joy we will not be able to find elsewhere, but more importantly, our passions are in us for someone else. There is someone on the other side of your dream. Your dreams become selfish when you choose not to DO. The selfishness doesn’t lie in the dream, it lies within the doing. YOUR passion could be someone else’s key to freedom, education, quality of life, etc. I will use myself as an example: If I quit pursuing my passion, then a coffee farmer would be forced to sell his farm because he could no longer afford it. His farm was not only his income, but it also was his life. It was passed down to his grandfather, then to his dad, and now he’s been handed what is left of a declining coffee farm and cannot pursue his passion (coffee) because of his situation. Or, there is a father who sits down at yet again, another empty table surrounded by hungry children. He needs to make more money, but the market value price for coffee just dropped again. And what about the woman who has come face to face with her greatest fear: losing her husband. Now, she has to tend to the coffee fields and children without the support of her spouse. Believe it or not, this is actually a true story of one of my farmers. Gosh, can you imagine the despair and amount of hopelessness coffee farmers must feel at times? Who's going to help them? I can’t turn my head and pretend I don't see the needs. If I do that, those farmers may never receive the quality of life that they deserve. Quitting will not only affect myself, but it also will affect my coffee farmers, their families and many others.

Next time you feel like giving up, think about the person who could potentially suffer from your selfishness. Don’t let your fear hold you back from someone else’s freedom! There is someone on the other side of my dream and there is certainly someone on the other side of yours!

Thanks for reading, friends!

Morgan

The Untold Story of Salt + Light Coffee Co.


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Hi friends! It’s Morgan here - I have been running Salt + Light for over a year now and think it’s time to properly introduce myself. BUT, there is a catch, I want to know about you! Coffee goes hand in hand with community and there’s no community without a conversation...am I right?! After you read this blog, head over to our Instagram page (@salt_lightcoffeeco) and tell me about your first experience with coffee!

With all this being said, let’s dive right into a chapter of my story. It was the winter of 2005 and I was sitting in my uncle’s kitchen watching him down his cup of coffee. I am not sure what the conversation was, but I remember holding a warm cup of black coffee in one hand and a sugar cookie with sprinkles in the other. Talk about a nice set up I had going on! Anyways ... after one sip. I was hooked. Well, if I am being honest it was more like one sip and a HUGE bite of my sugar cookie (I probably enjoyed my sugar cookie more than the actual coffee at the time). Either way, I took one sip and couldn’t get enough. I should also mention that I was only 6 years old. I am still not quite sure what my mom was thinking (or not thinking), but I am sure glad she allowed it, because little did I know, fourteen years down the road I would find myself importing coffee from Haiti, working with coffee farmers, and owning my own business.

You might be doing the math right now and saying, “Hold up girl. You’re telling me you started importing coffee and owning your business at the age of twenty?!” I am glad you asked! Well, technically speaking, I was 18 when I began the process of importing coffee to the states. But, we are going to have to rewind a tad bit more so that you can get the full story.

I saw the need for support for coffee farmers at the young age of fourteen which developed a passion for coffee and entrepreneurship. For me, to know of the injustices the farmers faced and to choose not to do anything about it, was equivalent to supporting the problem. No, I didn’t know how I would help or support them, and if I’m being completely transparent, I still do not have all the answers! All I know is that behind every positive change, there’s a community of people asking questions, having conversations, researching and giving it their all.


During my senior year of high school, I was sitting on the sideline of my school’s soccer field with a friend who was an international student from Haiti. We both had injuries that required us to sit out of practice that day, and she asked me the question that you hear about 358,845 times when you are a senior in high school, “Morgan, what are your plans after high school?” I told her I was planning on going to college for entrepreneurship with an emphasis on international business. Sounds good, right? Then I proceeded to tell her about my dream. Not my plans, but my dream. I told her how I wanted to import coffee and provide a better quality of life for coffee farmers and others in developing countries. She said, “That’s what my uncle does in Haiti! He exports coffee to the states.” That was all I needed.

The following summer, I packed my bags and flew down to Haiti for a little over a week. I toured two of the main coffee industries and met a few coffee farmers. I returned to the States hopeful and excited to turn my dream into a reality. But first, I had to finish college.

Douglas and I stopped for a picture while touring Selecto Coffee. This was my first trip to Haiti + Douglas was my first connection. Because of him, I was able to meet my farmers! 7/12/16

Douglas and I stopped for a picture while touring Selecto Coffee. This was my first trip to Haiti + Douglas was my first connection. Because of him, I was able to meet my farmers! 7/12/16

I started and finished college in a week. Yup, you read that right. I dropped out of college just after a few short days. I just couldn’t take it and had no peace about it. I continued working and weighing out my options until I could come up with a plan B. One day a pastor at one of the local churches approached me and asked if I could sell the church good, ethical coffee. I stuttered around for a while and finally ended up saying, “Well, I know nothing about importing coffee, but I do have the connections, so I can try.” And so my adventure began.

I imported 500 pounds of coffee on February 27th, 2017. A friend and I drove up to Cleveland in my dad’s pick-up truck and went to the Customs and Border Protection office to clear customs on the shipment of coffee. They recommended that I hire a broker to handle this for me but being the broke, college drop out that I was, I decided I could handle it myself. I had one minor glitch which caused me to have to pick up the coffee a day late. Other than that, I had no problems handling everything myself! My mom and I went to the bank to send a wire transfer down to Haiti to pay for the coffee. Now with the coffee being paid for and in my possession, it was my responsibility to sell it, set a budget for the next shipment, establish my LLC, insurance, licenses, health department inspections, and all the other nitty-gritty details that running your own business entails. At the time, it seemed like too much for me to handle. I remember multiple breakdowns, fighting anxiety, and practically becoming best friends with the workers at the Ohio Department of Taxation because I had called them so many times with questions!

My friends dad, Max and I standing near the drying beds at a cacao industry. 7/10/16

My friends dad, Max and I standing near the drying beds at a cacao industry. 7/10/16

Now, the things that once overwhelmed me are apart of my routine and I am amazed at how much I have grown through it all. People often tell me, “Morgan, just be a twenty-year-old,” insinuating that I am growing up too fast and not giving myself time to have fun. However, we need to understand that there is no better time than the present to start something that matters. If we wait for the perfect time, for financial stability or, until we have our masters degree, we will never get anything done. There are hurting people, starving children, sweatshops, child labor, sex trafficking and many more horrific problems that are happening in this country and others. Time is limited. Let me ask you, what is your crazy, big dream and what’s holding you back? I encourage you to step out in faith. Be bold and give yourself grace for mistakes you may make along the way. I may not be your predictable entrepreneur and I am learning on the fly, but I can go to bed at night with the satisfaction of knowing that I am doing my very best to better the quality of life for the people of Haiti. I truly believe that our best, the farmers’ best, and Haiti’s best is yet to come! And friend, YOUR best is yet to come.

Thanks for reading!

— Morgan Darr