December 8, 2017

Support Fight Against Cervical Cancer in Coffee Communities


Picture coffee communities at origin: what do you see? Lush landscapes, coffee trees full of beautiful dark red cherries, and hard-working families? The one thing you probably didn’t imagine was women with cervical cancer. However, 80% of the people newly diagnosed with this, if uncaught, potentially fatal illness live in producing countries.

Fortunately, Grounds for Health has been working on this issue since 1996. They’ve made significant progress in screening and treating women within coffee-producing countries – and an anonymous donor has guaranteed that if the charity raises US $200,000 by the end of the year, they will match it.

Grounds for Help needs just $30,000 more over the next 22 days to receive an incredible $400,000 – enough to provide this vital service to thousands of women from coffee-producing communities. And here’s why you should support them.

Spanish Version: Apoya la Lucha Contra el Cáncer Cervical en Comunidades Cafetaleras

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Families wait at Grounds for Health affiliated centers. Credit: Grounds for Health

Cervical Cancer: Screenings and Treatment

When Daniel Cox, Co-Founder of Grounds for Health, visited Mexico with his friend Dr. Francis Fote, OB/GYN to source coffee for Ben & Jerry’s, he learned two things. One, that women in Mexico are four times more likely to develop cervical cancer than in consuming countries. Two, that cervical cancer is preventable and, when caught early, it’s one of the most treatable cancers.

Why focus specifically on cervical cancer? Simply put, because it has a solution.

Think of it like this: if every woman were to get only one cancer screening in her lifetime, global rates would drop by 30%. What if women were to get two screenings? They’d drop by 60%. Only two out of every five women currently suffering from cervical cancer would contract it.

SEE ALSO: Cervical Cancer Is The Coffee Industry’s Concern – Here’s Why

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Women arrive at a health centre where they will receive cervical cancer screenings. Credit: Grounds for Health

Cervical Cancer & The Coffee Industry

Daniel tells me, “Once you go [to a coffee-producing community], you realize how difficult it is and understand that growing coffee and making a living from coffee is really hard.”

This is especially the case for women, who typically make up 70–75% of the workforce that picks, sorts, and processes coffee.

Daniel adds that, with the development of technology and new industries, many men have migrated to urban cities. This means that now, in addition to fulfilling traditional roles such as housework and caretaking, women also need to fill the vacant roles left by men in coffee communities. Imagine trying to do all this while also struggling with cervical cancer.

With women taking over such critical roles in their communities and in coffee production, supporting them is more important than ever. Because of this, Grounds for Health has continuously raised money to screen over 86,587 women and treat over 6,236 in coffee-producing countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, and Tanzania. They’ve also trained 521 providors, ensuring that this vital service can continue after the charity has left the community.

By partnering up with local coffee cooperatives and health organizations, Grounds for Health makes sure that they’re addressing the problem from a local perspective. This is incredibly important when touching on potentially sensitive subjects, especially ones that perspectives on vary across cultures.

Daniel tells me that an unintended positive consequence of this approach is the development of a female community at the clinics. While women are waiting to be screened, they’re never alone. Health professionals teach them about all sorts of health-related topics, such as how to examine their breasts for lumps or irregularities. These clinics are becoming safe spaces within communities for women to inquire about their health and also get to know each other.

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Women wait to be screened. Credit: Grounds for Health

Coffee Auctions for Cervical Cancer

Initially, Grounds for Health was supported by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (later Keurig Green Mountain), Ben & Jerry’s Homemade, and a handful of health practitioners. Now, the organization has grown into an established 501(c)(3) organization that even holds regular coffee auctions to support its funding.

Samantha Keane, Grounds for Health Board Member and Q-Grader at Balzac Brothers, told me that the auctions take place twice a year. Companies such as Balzac Brothers, Coffee Enterprises, Caribou Coffee, Dean’s Beans Organic Coffee, Keurig Green Mountain, Peet’s Coffee, Royal Coffee Inc., and Swiss Water Decaffeinated Coffee donate green beans and coffee equipment for roasters and coffee shops to bid on.

For example, for the Spring 2017 Auction, Balzac Brothers donated green coffee beans from Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Brazil. These raised $2,028.17, and 100% of the proceeds went to Grounds for Health.

Through these auctions, roasters can not only support a great cause but also bid on exceptional green beans and equipment. Samantha tells me that it’s a “great way for roasters to support the cause because they have to purchase coffee anyway.”  

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Women wait at a screening center. Credit: Grounds for Health

How You Can Support Grounds for Health

One of the most obvious ways to support Grounds for Health is through the auction system. You can either donate green coffee beans and/or equipment or you can bid on these items. However, the auction is not the only way for you to make an impact!

If you’re a larger company or have the means to do so, you can always become a supporter. If you’re a smaller business or individual, you can donate directly. Both Daniel and Samantha emphasize the impact roasters can have in coffee communities through Grounds for Health. And there is no better time to donate than right now, when Grounds for Health are trying to meet a $200,000 grant challenge! If you help them meet their target of $30,000 more this month, the charity will receive a total of US $400,000 – but time is running out.

Another very important thing that you can do is simply spread the word. Talk to your friends and coworkers about how easy it could be to solve this problem in producing countries, post about it on social media, and help to spread awareness.

Finally, and most importantly, if you’re a woman in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Nicaragua, Peru, or Mexico, and are in need of a cervical cancer screen, please get in touch with your local cooperative or health clinic that is affiliated with Grounds for Health. If you’re between the ages of 18 and 40, it’s important for you to get screened, it’s almost painless, and it’s completely free. No woman will be turned away at the clinic.

Cervical cancer is preventable and treatable. There is no reason for us not to take action.

Please note: This article has been sponsored by Balzac Brothers.  

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