Business, Faith and the Common Good Symposium: A Reflection by Loriana Harkey, Part 1

At the Business, Faith, and the Common Good Symposium, I listened to Dr. Kim Lamberty, the co-founder and president of a company called Just Haiti. Never having been to a Business Symposium, I had no idea what to expect. When I saw many people in business suits, I felt out of place because I had just come from class and had my backpack with me ready to take notes. But upon entering the room in which Dr. Lamberty spoke, I was reassured at the sight of a few children with their parents listening to the presentation. I felt that Dr. Lamberty had a calming aura about her, and it was evident that she had an immense amount of passion for her work. After the presentation, I met a Creighton representative from the Center for Service and Justice and explained to him how much I enjoyed hearing this first speaker. I was highly impressed by the idea that after her speech, students in the audience asked questions as well as the well-dressed adults. It was great to see how much the audience had paid attention to the program and had enough curiosity to inquire about it.

The premise of the Just Haiti company is to allow individuals in Haiti to earn money for a living. So, Just Haiti, a fair trade coffee company, trains Haitians in the coffee making process where they then sell their coffee to others. Most of the consumers are from the U.S. because after the coffee is made, it is imported to the U.S. The reason the coffee is as expensive as it is is because it is the main source of income for the Haitians to make a living. Dr. Lamberty keeps in contact with the coffee growers by talking to them in person and by phone. Unfortunately, most of them do not have email or electricity and are illiterate, which gives us as U.S. consumers all the more reason to buy coffee from them so they can make a better life. She believes this company will allow Haitians to “become a part of God’s abundance” and “artisans of their own destiny” because they make the coffee that provides them with a living.

Dr. Lamberty also talked about how one does not work in the fair trade business to get rich. They do it to include the poor in the global economy. She also talked about the difference between fair trade certification and organic certification. The latter is extremely expensive. Though it gives your company a stellar reputation, most Haitians cannot afford to get this certification that will only last 2 years. So with the limited income they receive, it makes sense why they would not spend it on a 2 year certification, but instead on their kids and family. However, Just Haiti is a fair trade member because of Dr. Lamberty’s membership. It is difficult to become a member of fair trade, and she remembers having to write a 13 page paper. Becoming a member does not give you certification, but it does allow you to have fair trade branding represented by a symbol.

Here is a little background provided about how long it takes to process coffee. First ripe beans must be picked. This process occurs in several waves. The “good ones” (healthy ones) are put in water and the bad ones are disposed of for compost. The healthy beans are put through a machine which removes pulp. They are then left to ferment for a day and over the course of 2 weeks, the beans are washed and dried on a patio. The skin is peeled and the beans are sorted, removing any sticks, rocks, twigs from being washed or dried on the patio and any defective beans. These bags of beans are then brought to Port-au-Prince completing the process. In total, this process takes a minimum of 6 weeks and can be as long as 3 months. This process occurs 3 times a year for a total of 3 shipments. The biggest threat to the coffee making business is climate change. The only solution Just Haiti has for this is to teach the coffee growers how to grow it in hotter environments. The earthquake and hurricane in Haiti caused them to lose their food crops but fortunately not the coffee.

One question from the audience really resonated with me. Someone asked about how Just Haiti would help Haiti move toward more of a first world country way-of-life and away from the third world country lifestyle. Dr. Lamberty answered honestly. Their goal is not to make Haiti a first world country, but to give them what they want. And what they want is not to become members of the middle class of U.S. citizens. What they want is their “traditional way of life with dignity” as Dr. Lamberty said. They want to be able to live in their country and do it with pride. And this is something Just Haiti can help with. During the discussion, Dr. Lamberty discussed how charity is not a long-term solution to poverty. It will always be there, but the poor cannot have successfully lives while being dependent on others to obtain resources to live. After 70 years of extensive charity in Haiti, the country is still struggling. It is Dr. Lamberty’s mission to help them be able to support their own destinies, and Just Haiti, is just a start.

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