Kingsley Griffin’s “labour of love” coffee companies in Uganda and White Rock are directly changing the educational experiences of students in the central African country.
Travelling after graduation from the University of British Columbia, Griffin landed in Uganda, where in 2014 he opened a coffee estate called Kingha Coffee Company.
He bought 20 acres of land from a local Ugandan elder, which he turned into a farm to grow, wash and dry coffee beans to be sold. Griffin began working with local farmers to produce the coffee to be shipped worldwide and used the funds to support students at neighbouring schools, which is a passion of his, he said.
“Instead of being one more large-scale coffee business, I wanted to do something a bit more involved and much more charitable,” Griffin explained.
Gaining the trust of the Ugandan people was not easy since they often receive visitors from the west who come with nothing more than empty promises, Griffin said.
“They were a bit weary of who these guys were coming in, ‘Are they going to deliver? Am I wasting my time?’ so after those couple years of feeling each other out, they know me quite well now, so when I go there and say what I’m doing, they know that I will follow-through. Then, they’re really engaged and willing to work with me, but it took a few years to meet everyone and establish trust.”
A partnership with a few schools around Uganda led to building of classrooms, new sports uniforms and other clothing, books, sports equipment and funds for other school needs.
Eventually, Griffin moved back to B.C. and ended up settling in White Rock where he and his business partner Sean Curley started Single Village Coffee as a way to import the coffee made in Uganda to be sold locally. A portion of the proceeds earned from the company in White Rock go back to fund the charity work helping students in Uganda.
To keep the friendly working relationship alive, Griffin and Curley visit Uganda periodically, spending approximately five months out of the year there.
Griffin spends two months a year working on the farm to really immerse himself in the work being done there. An added three-to-four months are spent in Uganda to deliver clothing-drive donations and meet the farmers and their families.
Kingha Coffee employs 85 farmers during peak season so they can provide for their households, Griffin said.
The charity is expanding, aligning with Coastal Football Club to supply Ugandan children with more sports gear. In February, Griffin and Curley went to Uganda to gift the students 500 uniforms from the football club for their sports teams, which thrilled the students and teachers, Griffin said.
Another 500 units of football uniforms will be taken to Uganda soon.
Single Village Coffee will host a charity fundraiser on June 11 and 12 to raise money to build a library for the Ugandan school children. Until this goal is met, the students are stuck with “a small room with a couple dusty books on the shelves,” Griffin said.
He will be giving away cups of their coffee in exchange for donations that will directly fund the building of the library for the students of Nyamiyaga Primary and Secondary Schools.
The event will be at the Coastal Football Club in South Surrey Athletic Park, located at 2295 148 St. on June 11 and 12 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.