Alone and scared, Josephine couldn’t understand why her family abandoned her when she was five years old. The little girl in Rwanda also didn’t know why she was sick all the time.
She eventually learned the reason for both. She had contracted a virus from her mother in utero; HIV- the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS.
Josephine is one of approximately 35 million people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS. Now in her twenties, she receives medical treatment and counseling. Her care is supported in part by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS.
The Global Fund finances programs delivering prevention, treatment, counseling, HIV testing and care services in more than 140 countries. It receives financial contributions from (RED)®, a charity organization founded in 2006 to engage businesses in the fight against AIDS. Starbucks partnered with (RED) in 2008 and since then the company and its customers have generated more than $12 million for the Global Fund.
“Being able to help people in another part of the world is a powerful thing, and it’s humbling to observe the impact from these donations,” said Lindsey Austin, a Starbucks brand manager who works in the company’s headquarters. She has been involved with the (STARBUCKS)RED program since its inception.
Austin and three other Starbucks partners (employees) traveled to Rwanda’s capital city of Kigali this fall to witness how funding has enhanced medical facilities and improved the lives of those who have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.
The partners who made the journey were nominated by their peers based on involvement in their local community. They met with patients, doctors and educators who expressed gratitude for the support provided by the Global Fund.
Visiting the Kimisagara Youth Center is an experience Austin said she will never forget.
“There are a lot of misconceptions about how the virus is transmitted. Some of the youth are afraid to get HIV/AIDS tests at their local hospital where they could run into relatives and family friends,” she said. “The Kimisagara Youth Center is empowering young people to lead healthy, productive lives in a country utterly devastated by war and genocide only 20 years ago. Their work inspires me to ask personally, ‘What more can I do?’”
The Musanze Health Center is set in a mountainous area about two hours north of Kigali. Due to improvements in access to medicine in the region, less than two percent of the babies born to HIV-positive mothers there contract the virus.
“I won’t soon forget the smile of a young mother at the health center. You could see that she was so happy; knowing that taking her medication would give her child a great gift,” said Michael Winterfield, store manager of a Starbucks in Spokane, Washington. “Brave mothers like many in the Musanze region, who are not afraid of the stigma that HIV/AIDS can still carry, are the key to the start of an AIDS-free generation.”
Starbucks partner Marie Paris, a store shift supervisor in South Carolina, was overcome with emotion as she walked through the maternity ward of the Nyamata Hospital. The public facility in the Bugesera District in Rwanda serves people from surrounding villages who don’t have many resources."
“Smelling the fresh air and feeling the wind hit your face as you turned corners in the building was a lot different than walking through an air conditioned hospital back home,” Paris said. “But the smiles on the faces of mothers who are holding their beautiful babies are the same. I admit, I cried tears of joy to know Starbucks partnership with (RED) is helping our global community grow – one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.”
Partners also went to a coffee farm and met with coffee growers who work with Starbucks’ Farmer Support Center, which opened in Rwanda in 2009.
“Although men own most of the coffee farms in the country, the majority of the actual farming is performed by the women of the household,” said Zeta Smith, Starbucks regional vice president. “Aligning with the (RED) objective of reducing HIV/AIDS transmissions, the Farmer Support Center reaches out to many of the women farmers to teach empowerment.”
After a week of seeing how donations to the Global Fund through the partnership with (RED) have positively impacted lives in Rwanda, the four partners have committed to sharing the experience with others in Starbucks.
“The 10 cent donation from each Starbucks handcrafted beverage purchased on World AIDS Day adds up and changes lives. I’ve seen firsthand the difference it makes,” said Lindsey Austin. “When you think about it, that’s a powerful latte.”
On World AIDS Day - December 1, 2014 - Starbucks is giving its customers and partners three ways to donate to the Global Fund:
Starbucks will make a 10 cent (U.S.) donation for every handcrafted beverage sold in participating U.S. and Canada stores.
For the first time this year, fellow (RED) partner Bank of America will match Starbucks 10 cent donation when My Starbucks Rewards® members purchase a handcrafted beverage with a registered Starbucks Card at a participating U.S. store.
Additionally, customers shopping online at Starbucks.com/shop in the U.S. may donate to the Global Fund directly by adding a (RED) donation to their purchase. Online donations may be purchased in $5 increments.
For more information on this story, contact the Starbucks Newsroom