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Refuge Coffee Company – World Changer Wednesday

Refugees get a lot of airtime these days.

We’ve all seen the pictures of the overcrowded rafts and dead children washed on shore. We hear about what governments open their doors to them, and which ones have them tightly shut. We hear about Muslims, immigration, and walls all the time in this year’s unfortunate election jibber jabber.

It’s a lot to figure out. Are refugees scammers? Just looking for better opportunities in better countries? Are refugees victims? Running for their lives from crazy leaders in hard places. Are refugees uneducated fools? Draining every person, place, and organization they encounter? Are refugees undercover sleeper agents? Slowly weaseling their way into our country to eventually destroy us?

When we talk about refugees at our house, we talk about them as people. Refugees are people. They are dads that want their little girls to be safe. They are mamas grieving their dead sons. They are little kids that like toys and candy and are afraid of bad guys. Like all humans they need food, water, and shelter to survive. They all humans they need community, identify, and purpose to flourish.

Here are links for actual official information about refugees entering the US. It’s a very long, rigorous vetting process. There are very high standards. It’s not the haphazard circus the media would have you believe.

As a part of our 2016 Family Compassion Focus, our family is specifically learning about refugees in Georgia. We found out Clarkston, a 1.4 square mile town just East of Atlanta, is considered “the most ethnically diverse square mile in America” (cbs46.com). It is a welcoming place for refugees from all over the world.

I discovered Refuge Coffee Company and their cute red truck when browsing on instagram in January. We read every link on their page, and watched this short news story as a family:

We were hooked. Greta and I started planning a fun Valentine’s fundraiser. I contacted Refuge Coffee Company and had a great talk with the founder, Kitti Murray. Sadly, Team Fritz had other dragons to slay this winter, and we had to put our compassion projects on hold. Finally –  finally – last week, we drove out to Clarkston.

fritzes at refuge coffee

It was very hot and bright. Hotlanta in June.

We were delighted. We met Caleb, Kitti, Leon, and Ahmad. We drank matcha, americanos, chocolate milk shakers, and hibiscus teas. We ate huge croissants. We bought mugs, t-shirts, and coffee beans. We asked lots of questions. We learned lots of things.

RFC truck and swag

We couldn’t help but support the cause and buy all this swag. Also, please note the mission written clearly on the truck: “Refuge Coffee Co. is for Clarkston, GA – As you enjoy your coffee you are providing a living wage, quality job training, and mentorship for a resettled refugee who lives right here in Atlanta’s backyard.”

Before we came down the kids and I brainstormed questions to ask the crew at the coffee truck. Kitti graciously invited us to the tables closest to the fans under the shade in the former car dealership lot.

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This is Refuge Coffee Company’s location. It used to be a car dealership, then a gas station. Now RFC rents this corner. I didn’t get pictures of the meeting spaces inside the building. It looks like a place I’d normally drive right by. But I’d be missing out. Good things are happening here.

Here are excerpts from our family interview/assault on patient, friendly, enthusiastic Kitti Murray:

Caleb: “What do you recommend to drink and eat here?”

Kitti: “My favorite is a Cortado. It’s heavy duty. Leon makes it just how I like it. I like to eat the morning buns. They are huge! I would have one everyday, but then I’d be huge, too! I like to share one with my husband. A lot of people’s favorite is the hibiscus tea – some people call it ‘classy koolaid.’”

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Zoë: “How many cups of coffee have you served?”

Kitti: “I could look up all the details on all the drinks for you. But for now a short answer is that we pulled 12,000 shots in our first year.”

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Greta: “How many people come to the Coffee Truck every week?”

Kitti: “We are open 2 days a week, Wednesdays and Fridays. We do about 100 transactions a day, 100 receipts. Sometimes big groups come and order lots of drinks on one transaction.”

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Aimee: “I hear you go serve on movie sets?”

Kitti: “Yes! We go to film sets and serve the cast and crew. It’s fun.

Caleb: “What was your first move set?”

Kitti: “Captain America at Pinewood Studios!”

Everyone: “Cool!”

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Kitti and Greta admiring that huge delicious croissant!

Greta: “How many employees do you have?”

Kitti: “Right now we have 2 full time employees, Caleb and Leon. We have 2 full time trainees, Ahmad and Mohamed. And 3 part time employees (Ashley, Jessica, and me). We are also looking to hire a job training specialist so we can grow a curriculum and serve our employees better. ”

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Leon was very patient with all our questions when we ordered. When we bought beans for home he ground them fresh for us!

Zoë: “How do you pick who works for you?”

Kitti: “We use our social networks a lot. All of our trainees come via word of mouth. We want to continue to grow in engaging the community around us, especially the refugee community.”

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Me with Ahmad, he was a refugee from Syria. He’s been training with the Refuge Coffee Company 9 months. He is very kind, friendly and servant hearted

Caleb: “What’s the hardest part?”

Kitti: “The responsibility of having to pay people. Right now our earned income pays half (the other half is donations)…

…Also, life is hard here for people. We hear heart wrenching stories all the time….

…It’s also hard to stay focused. There is so much to do and so much we want to do.”

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Greta chose a beautiful necklace made by Clarkston resident, Rudika. They smiled at each other a lot.

— Then Leon joined the conversation —

Kitti: Leon, what’s the hardest part?

Leon: Trying to figure out which pastries to buy each day! Can’t predict it! Some days we run out. Some days we have too much. Sometimes when we are catering we almost run of out mocha and we must prepare more mocha. I feel like some would use witchcraft to see the future to know how to prepare!”

Kitti: Yes! Learning how to run a business is hard.

Caleb: Do you like to work here?

Leon: I like this environment [motioning to the truck, parking lot, tables of people]. I learn new things every day. Everyone has a different background. And being with people makes me happy.

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Zoë and Caleb listening to Leon and Kitti at the back of the truck.

Aimee: How did you come to work at Refuge Coffee Company?

Leon: I am from Congo. There are many people from Congo here in Clarkston. I would go to evening prayer at Kitti’s house. Jessica (from the Refuge Coffee Team) was a neighbor. During this time I worked at the Farmers Market 2 months, and at the chicken plant 7 months. One night at evening prayer Jessica told me to come for an interview at 11 o’clock American time, not Congo Time, which would be 1 o’clock. So I came to an interview at 11 o’clock American time and answered questions. After 10 days I got accepted.”

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Aimee: How can we help Refuge Coffee Company when we don’t live in Clarkson?

Kitti: There are 3 things you can do to help:

  1. Come down to Clarkston and buy a drink. [truck schedule]
  2. Have us come cater for you. We’ll bring the truck to your church, business, party, and event. [catering link]
  3. Donate to the Refuge Coffee Company. [donation link]

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Refuge Coffee Company is a little over a year old. They have big dreams: a 2nd truck, a brick and mortar coffee shop in Clarkston, and roasting their own coffee. They are already making it happen:

  1. They just purchased the 2nd truck. The build-out is $75,000.
  2. They are looking to hire a job training specialist. They want to be able to pay that person $25,000.
  3. They have raised $20,ooo of a $50,000 matching grant. If they get the $100,000 they will be able to fully pay for the truck and the employee.

Friends, this is so exciting!

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Do you want to do something to welcome refugees? Do you love coffee? Do you love entrepreneurial risk taking? Would you like to join us? We have a bunch of ideas, but for now, we just got an unexpected $500 *refund* from our insurance company (for real). We are going to use that as a matching gift for an impromptu fundraiser!

Let’s give $1000 to Refuge Coffee Company!

(as of 7/17/16 we have $270 + the $500 = $770 only $230 to go!)

Here is the link to donate: https://refugecoffeeco.cloverdonations.com/donations/

  • It is tax deductible.
  • You can put “Team Fritz” as your “organization name” when you enter your information to donate online.
  • Any amount is great! $5, $50, another $500, a match for the whole $1000 😉
  • Ask any questions in the comments below or at familycompassionfocus@gmail.com
  • Thanks!

[We ask every day, “Lord, how would you like the Fritzes to love Refugees today?” I’ve got to tell you that it’s been hard to figure out. We pray, read bible verses and new articles, and ask questions, but it’s hard to show love to refugees in our isolated fancy-pants town. So one active thing we can do is donate money. Maybe you wonder how you can help refugees from wherever you are? Maybe this is your thing.]

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You are loved.


Related Links:

Related Posts:

©Aimee Fritz & Family Compassion Focus, 2016.

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