“A man walked in and shot my parents. My father lived but my mother passed away. My father was crippled because of the gunshot. Without enough money, my siblings and I would take turns in going to school. That is why I did not have the drive to finish my studies,” says Mimie Alyub Sali in between sobs.
“Especially if it rains,” adds her cousin, Nurul-In Minajul Sali, who is also wiping her tears. “The roads are muddy. Now, our community earned enough funds to have it cemented.”
That’s how the pendulum swings from tears of anguish to tears of joy. As Mimie looks back, she never realized that she could earn a college degree. “Thanks to coffee, I did, and I’m hopeful that my younger siblings will also graduate.” They recently finished their Hotel and Restaurant Management degree at the Immaculate Conception Archdiocese School in Zamboanga City. They are also new members of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance-Philippine chapter.
The first time I met them was at the Philippine International Convention Center where they sold Sulu Royal Coffee at the GREAT Women in ASEAN trade showcase. It was fitting because the ECHOsi Foundation and the GREAT Women Project, back in 2014, had brought trainers to teach them and other young girls in their community to make grass and nipa baskets. These baskets were used as packaging materials for their coffee. Eventually, the men, the military and the other adults also participated because they were able to earn, and the additional income led to peace in their community.
From basket making, they learned the proper way to plant, harvest and process coffee. They reveal that the trainings instilled the importance of doing things the right way or they will have to do the process all over again. With bulk orders from Cotabato, Basilan, and additional orders from the Philippines and even from Canada, they managed their time wisely. They used the money they had earned for the school needs of their siblings like books and shoes. Mimie and Nurul-In also brought new phones to communicate with fellow IWCA-Ph members, eager to learn more.
I’m amazed at how they use their time, talent and money wisely. It’s a cycle of women helping women in IWCA-Ph―and I’m thirsty to learn more inspiring stories like this for The Ultimate Coffee Guide.
(article by Goldweene Quetulio / photos by Keith Dador)