We love to hear stories of coffee being used to change lives because we believe it certainly has the power to do that! Social Drinks is one such story of a cup of coffee meaning so much more than a caffeinated beverage! Their first pop-up is currently running in Cresta Mall and at the end of May they move to the Pavilion in Durban, so keep an eye out to support this good cause! We chatted to Mike Darby, a member of The Social Project team.
Who are the people behind Social Drinks?
The Social Project, an NPO working in the education arena. We operate tablet-based iLearning Centres in rural and impoverished communities around South Africa, and aim to help 1 million children improve their education.
How did the initiative come about and why did you think that coffee would be a good vehicle to fund it?
We soon realised that a majority of the learners attending our Centres were not eating enough each day, and nowhere near enough food with good nutritious value, and we needed to find a way to feed them without relying on charity. The idea of a coffee store had already come up, a few of the staff and Board members are coffee fanatics, and we recognise that a lot of coffee drinkers have a passion and concern for broader social issues (as can be seen by projects like the Fair Trade coffee programme). We realised that, as a nonprofit, we could effectively use the “profit” for each cup of coffee to provide a meal for a child – and both are in the culinary arena, so it was a logical fit. We also have a great relationship with Kairos Nutrition, who manufacture the Super8 cereal we provide.
Tell us a little bit more about the iLearning facilities?
The Centres are usually run by two Centre Managers, who were unemployed members of the community whom we have trained up. We provide them with a tablet locker containing up to 25 tablets, a server, router and charging ports, and children can then come in every afternoon for a tablet-based preset lesson in Maths, Science, English or Computers. The learners are anywhere from Grade 1 to Grade 12, and pay a small amount (R60 per month, or R3 per lesson), which largely goes to the Centre Managers as a salary. Payments are made at Pick n Pay outlets, so that we have no cash in the Centres.
When did you start and have the pop-ups been successful so far?
The first coffee store opened at Cresta in the middle of March, and we hope to open two more outlets during the course of the year, in addition to this popup. It’s been an interesting challenge being in the retail sphere, something none of us have done in the past, but we are hoping to break even in May and thereafter… we don’t aim to make a profit, so breakeven is the target!
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