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VILLAGE SCHOOLHOUSE PROJECT: EQUITAS



Written By Holly Blackman


Pure justice here on this side of heaven seems impossible…it’s the difference between heaven and earth, and still Steve Cook continues to pursue it, tirelessly, along with Equitas and the help of 21 villages in Malawi. Steve is the founder & CEO of the nonprofit Equitas (Latin for Justice). We at Enderly Coffee are honored to know Steve and to be a part of his pursuit of justice! Read on to see how YOU can too!


The children attending school from Gadi village in Malawi sometimes walk up to 5 miles to make it during rainy season. The youngest are 6 years old, and they trek through dangerous terrain, sometimes giving up because they are just not strong enough to make the journey to school. They long to be doctors, nurses, teachers, accountants. Their village chiefs, government officials, moms and dads believe in them. I believe in them, in their future, in their strength, in their perseverance. I know very few American elementary school students willing to trek to school for 0.5 miles, much less 5 full miles!  Jonathan George, a middle school teacher at Piedmont Middle School, simulates the walk through Charlotte, with his middle schoolers to raise money to help build the Village Schoolhouse!


Since Gadi village seems remote, as real as a fictional Netflix set, and Malawi is thousands of miles from most people’s minds, try and conceptualize your child, any child in the US, walking miles to get to school each day. In Charlotte we’re debating about longer bus rides for our children across Charlotte, and these 6 and 7 year olds are risking their lives to get to school. Their conflicts are more than going to a school with others "across the tracks", but a real fear of the animal tracks that indicate the lurking risks around them. They have dreams, hopes, desires to be nurses, teachers, cab drivers, doctors, and yet some have to give up because their legs give out or the journey is just too long.


The people of Gadi village have begun the journey to make school more accessible, as has the Malawi government.  There were tens of thousands of handmade bricks waiting on Steve Cook at the projected Village Schoolhouse Project site when he arrived on July 3, 2015 for his annual trip. Key word here is "projected"; Steve and Equitas had evaluated needs for years in Malawi, focusing on everything from safe water to HIV/AIDS rates and have narrowed their focus to education after the village chiefs and the people of Gadi voiced their concerns; the real need was access to education. The people of Gadi believed, sight unseen, that there would be a school. They devoted their time, labor and very little resources they had to making the building blocks for their children’s future.  


They believed because Steve had followed through on projects he mentioned during his annual trips to Malawi in previous years, even though he always made clear he had to go back and get the Equitas board’s approval.  Those of Gadi trusted and believed that what he said... he would do.


Steve Cook describes the unprecedented hugs from village chiefs and others from Gadi village. The hugs are forever imprinted in his mind. Not a second thought in the US, but "They don’t even hug their spouses or family members in public," Steve told me. So these embraces are more than hugs. They have accepted, trusted and understood how Steve likes to be shown love, a true sign of respect, stepping outside themselves to accept him with open arms.


At Enderly, we want to step outside of ourselves - having the option to choose which school our children will attend seems daunting, but what a first-world problem. We want to embrace the people of Gadi, embracing their children by contributing 50% of sales from each bag of our Village Schoolhouse Project coffee purchased to make sure their children have a safe route to school. We have sourced a delightful coffee from the Mzuzu region of Malawi, roasted it light, getting a smooth and balanced cup. We want to believe in them as they have already had faith in us, that this school will be built by this September - let’s help make it happen!


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