Former Sudanese 'Lost Boy' Helps Other Refugees

29 April, 2018

A cup of coffee is a good way for many people to start their day. But, it can also do much greater good.

Manyang Kher is a former Sudanese child refugee. When he was three years old, his village was attacked and burned during his country's civil war in the 1980s.

He was separated from his parents. He never saw them again.

Kher is one of the so-called Lost Boys of Sudan – one of 20,000 young Sudanese who escaped from their villages and made the 1,600-kilometer walk to Ethiopia.

Kher lived in a refugee camp in Ethiopia's Gambella region for 13 years.

When he was 16, Kher came to the United States as an unaccompanied minor refugee. While he was in college in the American state of Virginia, he started Humanity Helping Sudan to raise awareness of the refugees.

Today, Kher is an American citizen. He is owner and founder of a coffee company called 734. It is part of his larger Humanity Helping Sudan project.

The coffee company's name is meaningful. It comes from the geographical coordinates of the Gambella area: 7 degrees north and 34 degrees east.

The company helps the more than 200,000 refugees living in the Gambella area.

Kher said, "I know the struggle those refugees face every day. You see kids die from hunger because they don't have enough food. You see kids dying of cholera. You see kids dying of a disease. You see kids just running away from the refugee camp, just want to go to a place to be home but they die there on the way."

Eighty percent of Kher's profits from 734 coffee goes toward the refugees. Profits go toward buying school supplies and sending more of the children to school.

And, as Kher explains, the money helps "refugees help themselves."

A cup of 734 coffee, for example, can also buy one fishing net for a refugee. This helps them become self-sufficient, Kher explains.

"That's why we give fishing nets because they can go to river and fish for themselves. If you build more community gardens they can grow their own food."

Kher operates 734 Coffee from two warehouses in Virginia. But the coffee beans come from African owned and operated farms in Gambella. The beans are roasted by local coffee roasters in the U.S.

Kher sells the coffee online, at events and to coffee stores.

Megan Murphy owns a bakery near Washington, D.C. She serves 734 Coffee to her customers.

"The customers love it," she says. "Whenever they find out about the project, about the mission, they connect right with it. The coffee tastes delicious, so it's a win-win on both sides. You get to enjoy coffee and at the same time be part of the bigger project."

I'm Jonathan Evans.

June Soh reported this story for VOA. Rei Goto adapted her report for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

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Words in This Story

refugee –n. a person who has been forced to flee because of unjust treatment, danger or war

coordinate n. any of a set of numbers used in specifying the location of a point on a line, on a surface, or in space

warehousen. a structure or room for the storage of merchandise or commodities

roast v. to dry and parch by exposure to heat

customer n. one that purchases a commodity or service

delicious adj. appealing to one of the bodily senses especially of taste or smell