#47: How the Coffee Industry Can Make Successful Refugee Resettlement Possible | Expo 2018 Lectures

It goes without question that the US is currently locked in a very public debate over what type of country we want to be for refugees. The US has a long tradition of welcoming refugees, but is at a crossroads of what that will look like in the future. The coffee industry is uniquely positioned as a major influencer in American society that can create structures to both welcome refugees and promote their acceptance in our local communities. As coffee companies and their customers increasingly demand that humanity is valued across the entire supply chain, integrating recently arrived refugees in our businesses is another way we can continue our global impact here in the US.

Though our intentions may be in the right place, the realities of running a customer-facing, profitable business can raise questions on the realities to take part in this mission. Today’s episode was a safe-space conversation to provide lecture attendees with practical information on how to hire and work with refugees in their community and allowed the opportunity to ask hard questions.

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Table of Contents

0:00 Introduction
2:15 Introduction by Rachel Tabor, introducing speakers and 1951
11:15 What is the refugee challenge across the globe? How big is it? What does the word “refugee” even mean?
15:30 Meg’s journey as a refugee in Nepal and moving to North America and finally in coffee
31:30 Doug Hewitt on the process of settling refugees in the US and the realities of working with refugees in the coffee industry
46:45 Practical steps for cafe owners who are interested in hiring refugees
56:00 Audience questions
1:11:00 Outro

Episode Transcript

0:00 Introduction

Heather Ward: Hello everybody, I’m Heather Ward, SCA’s Senior Manager of Content Strategy and you’re listening to the SCA Podcast. Today’s episode is a part of our SCA Lectures series, dedicated to showcasing a curated selection of the extensive live lectures offered at SCA’s Specialty Coffee Expo and World of Coffee events. Check out the show notes for relevant links and a full transcript of today’s lecture.

It’s hard to believe Expo has come and gone – thank you for joining us in Boston! My head is still reeling from all the great lectures we hosted over the weekend. While you’re making your way back home – and we’re processing all of this year’s recordings – we again wanted to make sure you have a great lecture from our 2018 Lecture series to enjoy.

As if the 88 lectures we hosted at Expo this year wasn’t enough, we’re also offering a fantastic slate of lectures at this year’s World of Coffee in Berlin. Learn more about this year’s program and get your tickets at worldofcoffee.org.

It goes without question that the US is currently locked in a very public debate over what type of country we want to be for refugees. The US has a long tradition of welcoming refugees, but is at a crossroads of what that will look like in the future. The coffee industry is uniquely positioned as a major influencer in American society that can create structures to both welcome refugees and promote their acceptance in our local communities.  As coffee companies and their customers increasingly demand that humanity is valued across the entire supply chain, integrating recently arrived refugees in our businesses is another way we can continue our global impact here in the US.

Though our intentions may be in the right place, the realities of running a customer-facing, profitable business can raise questions on the realities to take part in this mission. Today’s episode was a safe-space conversation to provide lecture attendees with practical information on how to hire and work with refugees in their community and allowed the opportunity to ask hard questions.

Please join us in welcoming moderator Rachel Taber in leading our panel: Meg Karki and Doug Hewitt of 1951 Coffee Company.

Also, to help you follow along in the podcast, I’ll jump in occasionally.


2:15 Introduction by Rachel Tabor, introducing speakers and 1951

Rachel Taber: Good morning. Happy Saturday of SCA, a lot to get through. My name is Rachel Tabor and I am one of the co-founders of 1951 Coffee. I’m going to be your facilitator today helping to introduce and talk more deeply with Meg Karki and with Doug Hewitt. Meg Karki is born in Bhutan and his family fled to Nepal when he was two where he was raised in the camp and came over on the refugee program to the Bay Area in 2011 upon where he met Doug and I. He has been really instrumental in helping 1951 to get started and how we produce our services and was our first staff member and helped lead the cafe until a couple months ago as his wife had a cute little baby that’s one month old. So, we are lucky to have him here with us today and he’s in the process of moving up to Vancouver.

Also, at this is Doug Hewitt. I’ve also known him since 2011 and he runs our coffee quality and the program side of everything that we do. He has a deep experience in the coffee sector and working with Refugee resettlement, especially around employment. And that is the lot of the skills that he brings to 1951. My job at 1951, I’m the Director of Operations, which in reality means I do most of our financial compliance and management along with our fundraising because we are a 501C3 non-profit.

So, just to give you guys a little bit of structure on how we’re going to present today’s program. We really love to start off in these moments to give some context of just what is the refugee challenge going on across the globe? How big is it? What is the word a refugee? It’s actually legal definition and which not people always realize and then after an introduction, I’m going to sit down and interview to pull out a little bit more of Meg’s story to share. How he came to the US, kind of the power that coffee has been in his life and then hear more from Doug and Meg about the realities of working with refugees in the coffee industry. That’s where we really want to create today and where I’m actually really excited about this group and its size is that the deeper we get into this and the more experience we realize that having safe space conversations where you can ask, please ask us real questions.

There’s no judgment here. This is a really amazing opportunity to help change perceptions, to open people up to ideas and that’s what we’re here. That’s our mission to be doing this for. So, then at the end we’ll open the floor up to questions of which please ask us anything you want. We’re an open book and that’s our mission to really be able to be that connector between a service provider, our people, refugees that are here in the country and employers, especially in the coffee industry. So, I’ll go ahead and get started. Refugees welcome and coffee.

So, 1951 Coffee Company, that’s our group. We were founded in 2015 and as a non-profit. This is very missional for us. Our goal is to support refugees with skills training and employment upon coming to the US while concurrently educating the community about Refugee life and issues. We have two main initiatives to our efforts. Our first one is a Refugee Barista Training Program. We do you have some photos up here and actually one of our staff members to the right. But this is a two weeks class to help someone that has come either as a refugee, an asylee or a special immigrant visa to get jobs in the specialty coffee industry. We always like to push that theoretically from the day we wanted to even think of doing this, we always wanted to be working in the specialty realm.

I think that being able to show the US and any industry that someone new to this country can perform at the top of it was extremely important to us and so this two-week class happens at a coffee lab that is not part of our regular day-to-day operational café. It’s around 40 hours and it includes hands-on experience with all of the top equipment in the industry in terms of grinders and scales and espresso machines in addition to espresso preparation and theory and milk steaming. We also go over a variety of drip coffee and pour over skills. We are doing a ton around vocational English, workforce cultural orientation to the US, hygiene safety.

We practice on a square point of sale systems because coffee shops, we love our square systems and it’s wonderful and our graduation is this amazing moment where we open up the cafe to employers so that they can actually do a skills-based interview and we can see how people are actually taking their order. What are their smiles? How are they presenting that latte which is such a help for someone whose English may not be their first language. Who is nervous, who needs this job and is very justifiably scared of what’s going to happen next. We’ve been running that program since early 2016 and we haven’t checked our tracking sheet, but I know we’re somewhere just above about 120 people that have been trained and placed.

We’re going into our third year of programs and we have this incredible team and really amazing employment partners that have allowed us to reach outcomes of over 80% of our people are finding amazing jobs in the coffee industry. So, it’s been a fun ride and continues to run as the main program started in Oakland and we have finances to be also offering a smaller version of the program, only 25 people a year in San Diego from last year and then going into this year. So, our other main program which people know us more for often is our coffee shop and Doug and I quit our jobs in 2015 to start 1951 with the goal of the coffee shop.

We wanted to be the employer, we wanted to see in the world. We wanted to provide a platform for refugees to advocate for themselves and for people coming through the program and also an opportunity for employers and community members to have a different interaction with someone from this country. So, often from our positions we’ll see someone that either cares so much about the refugee issue, but they don’t have authentic ways to really help or connect. So, they just end up doing something like an in-kind donation drive or a post on their Facebook or alternatively people that have maybe never met someone that has been through the program. They only read things in the newspaper and it becomes more of a situation of distrust and so what we love about the coffee shop and we see day in, and day out is just this really natural way to meet someone to interact and, of course, I don’t have to expand here that you know cafes are places where you can create a network, create friendships. That’s something that I think people here, you know already get and we’re bought into.

The cafe opened serendipitously one day after, two days after Trump came into office and a couple days before the first attempted travel ban, which was just this, it gave us this new platform for advocacy and talking about refugees. It’s been pretty incredible and has provided us moments like this that we could not be more thrilled with, and we employ 10 people at any one time. I was just sharing with someone earlier. Our staff members right now are from Burkina Faso, Eritrea, Burma, Bhutan, Syria, Afghanistan and it’s always changing. Meg was our first Cafe manager and we have a new Cafe manager now that we’re sad to leave him and we’re just beyond proud to say that the cafe is 100% refugee run and not only that, it’s making money. We broke even and started going cash flow positive at five months and we broke even within our first year and we’re operating profitably, and I think, again I’m the money person. They actually call me “dream killer” because I’m like, “We can’t afford that.” which is right if you’re in charge of finances. But I think just for any business, for any moment when you’re looking at this issue it comes down to your business. Can I afford this? Can they operate within my systems? Can we be successful?

That’s really why the cafe is necessary and as we’re growing, we’re aiming to grow, why the coffee shop continues to be necessary wherever we grow to because we really need to show people and employers that this is possible. It’s possible, you can serve extremely high-end specialty coffee, serve it well have a fabulous reputation in community and be making money on it. So, before we delve in too much into that because really this is where Meg and Doug, I really want them to bring out their experiences managing and dealing with that side. I want to provide a little bit of context about the refugee issue just so that when we’re using certain terminology and just understanding where they fit into the system it makes a little more sense.


11:15 What is the refugee challenge across the globe? How big is it? What does the word “refugee’”even mean?

Rachel Taber: So, like I said earlier, the word refugee is a legal definition and if you can guess in what year that came about, it was in 1951 which is where our name comes from and it’s a homage or throwback to the 1951 Refugee Convention that was held in Geneva, Switzerland that first put forth the guidelines and legal definition and protections around what it meant to protect and support someone who is fleeing their country. The legal definition is my party trick that I can say it and it’s really boring and long, so I won’t go for it. But what it is, it is someone who has left their country for reasons of race, religion, nationality or membership in a particular social group or political opinion.

I’d love to point out here that it does not include economic or climate migrants. I often have people be like, “What about you know Haiti and everything?” I’m like, “No, I understand that people need to leave for a variety of reasons that are endangering their lives and their future. We’re specifically talking about the legal definition of the legal channels of people coming into the country.” In addition to the word refugee you’ll also hear me use two other words. One is asylee and that is someone who has come into the country on their own accord and then they declare themselves for refugee protection when they get here. Refugee status is conferred outside of the US by the UN in whatever country someone has fled to and then their channels of bringing them here are conducted by the UN and the US government.

The last thing you’ll hear me say special immigrant visa or it often goes by a SIV and that is someone who has been granted a special immigrant visa and right now it’s those that have been working with the US armed forces in Iraq or Afghanistan often in logistics or translation and their lives are in danger because of the assistance they provided the US. So, those three populations it makes up a humongous part of this country. They’re over 65 million displaced people across the world. Of that, the refugee population that is officially registered with the UN is at 22.6 million people. There’s new numbers coming out that it might be upwards of 24.5. That number is always in fluctuation, but it is good to note that this is the largest refugee crisis the world has faced since World War Two which is why I think it is on and the new cycle is on people’s minds. It is present and we can’t deny it.

That’s a lot of people to envision and it’s striking to us when we’re pulling up like well, I guess what country has this many people in the world and it’s Australia. This is literally, we could populate an entire country of Australia with the number of refugees that there are that is like the breath of people that are out there. You see that number. What do people even start doing? The UN works with refugees to find something called a durable solution? The first is always the hope that someone can go home and that’s what they want as well. The second if that’s not possible that maybe they can stay in the country that they have fled to. That’s not a strong option.

You know, that might become an anchor or a sink for refugees and countries worry about that. And so, the third is often third country resettlement, which is what Meg and his family and how they made the way the US but it’s an insane process, it’s hard. As you can see on the screen the average wait time is 17 years from the moment that someone flees their home until they even are going to get somewhere like a safe new place, which is the US or another resettlement country. It’s roughly around 100,000 people a year. Any number we use right now we always have to justify, its changing. It goes without saying that this country is locked in a battle about what and where refugees fit into our society from just a social level all the way up to the federal government and so the president does work with the Congress to set a ceiling of what’s the maximum allowable refugees that can come through this program each year and right now the ceiling for the 2017/18 year is at 45,000 people. So that’s my Global context just so you know where we fit into this.


15:30 Megs journey as a refugee in Nepal and moving to North America and finally in coffee

Rachel Taber: Cool. So. Meg can you start off by telling everyone where your family’s from and who’s in your family?

Meg Karki: I’m from Bhutan and my family’s from Bhutan.  My brother and my mom and dad were in Bhutan, but we left, I mean we were kicked out of Bhutan in the 1990s and my dad was in a prison for five years because of the US protesting for our democracy and human rights. At the age of 2, I left Bhutan with my mom and my brother and we flew to Nepal.

Rachel Taber: So, in 1991 to give a little more context about the situation. So, I think it was about 100,000 people

Meg Karki: Yeah

Rachel Taber: were kicked out of Bhutan and what was the reason?

Meg Karki: It’s because of the Bhutan government wanted to feel like a one nation and one people like do you want to make a decision group and there are two parts. We lived in the Southern part of Bhutan and there are two different ethnicities, the Hindus and Buddhists and they want to make sure that they both speak the same language and they are not allowing us to a free democracy. There’s the main region and there’s people protesting for human rights and people are doing we want to justice or we want to democracy, we want our own language, we want our schools to be in Nepal also, but the Bhutan didn’t listen to it and they just feel like we should start kicking. Most of the population in Bhutan was Nepalese, happens to be just be Nepalese and they think that these Nepalese people going to take over the Bhutan and the King started to think about it. We should kick these people out of the country, and we feel it in Nepal.

Rachel Taber: So, about a fifth of the population that were ethnically Nepali and are Hindu as well.

Meg Karki: Yeah.

Rachel Taber: Yep, Hindu and so that was different from the other and so, the monarchy wanted to have a really great gross national happiness number. I think we’ve all, you think of Bhutan. It’s become a popular tourist destination right now. You hear them talk about gross national happiness, which is this huge contradiction from what your family… So, when, and I don’t know if I’ve ever asked you this. When your mom took you and your brother, you were two. How old was your brother?

Meg Karki: He was almost four years.

Rachel Taber: Okay, and so do you remember when you guys left and went to the refugee camp?

Meg Karki: I didn’t remember a lot, but I heard all these stories from my Mom and Dad. We took a bus with my mom’s parents and we came to the refugee camp on the jungle side and both sides of the river and we are in the middle of this Island. But I was two years old and I spent all my refugee life in a refugee camp for 19 years.

Rachel Taber: And your dad was still bad?

Meg Karki: Yeah. My dad was just in Bhutan in prison. Yeah, and he came back after 5 years in the refugee camp.

Rachel Taber: So, Meg’s family and the other 100,000 Bhutanese that were kicked out the UN rented land from Nepal to host seven different refugee camps,. This is one of those durable solution moments. Well, when you all left your citizenship was canceled and they took all of your property right?

Meg Karki: Yeah, I was born in Bhutan, but I wasn’t citizen until I was 26. I am a citizen of the US right now this makes me feel really great and honored. But, my dad was a citizen, but it doesn’t count. My mom, it’s cancelled, there is nothing to do, we can’t go back to Bhutan. Right now, also I can’t go back to Bhutan.

Rachel Taber: Nepal wouldn’t take him either and I think that was it. It was one of those second country moments. Okay. Well 100,000 are ethnically Nepalese. Maybe Nepal will take them, and Nepal is like no, we can’t do this either and so the UN

Meg Karki: They rented it.

Rachel Taber: rented land for seven different refugee camps and I always pronounce it wrong UN Goldhap Camp.

Meg Karki: Yep.

Rachel Taber: Okay. And so, what was life like? Can you explain to me when you look, what did it look like? How did you live? What did the houses look like? What was the camp like?

Meg Karki: I mean do we fear? As a kid, wherever you live, if you have a chance, you enjoy the life and that’s what I did. Enjoy the life, play soccer, go to school, come back but the life was terrible. I mean there was nothing else, there was no future, there was no necessary food, there’s nothing else. A roof of thatch and the bamboo and when you see from your bed, like bamboos bed and you can see the moon in the sky and that’s terrible and when it rains, it comes in your bed right directly and the floor. I mean, the pile called the refugee camp. It’s like if you see in San Francisco the houses are so connected and just like that our houses are all attached and it’s like 10,000 people in the 1400 houses and we are the family of four living in one house. It’s like a soccer goal, the biggest house, but we are lucky that we are only for people. But some people have 8 people and they have to live, sleep, eat, cook, do their homework, do everything inside there. Stock your firework and everything, all those things like a firewood and everything else there.

Rachel Taber: Who built the houses for you?

Meg Karki: The Elder VF, the other agency, refugee agency give us the materials and everything else, so we built the houses. Yeah, and those are my Grandparents when they migrated. Now, they live in a Saskatchewan in Canada. Yeah.

Rachel Taber: So how did you guys get food? What food did you eat?

Meg Karki: Rice, 5 kilograms of rice for, I think provides 1% for 15 days. I mean.

Rachel Taber:  Who gave it to you? Was it…

Meg Karki: UNHCR, UNHCR mostly and oil, little bit of oil, vegetables, potatoes, garbanzo beans and sometimes raw bananas and so on, small vegetables, but it’s not enough. So, we have to, like my dad have to work out of that and we do not have right to work in Nepal. So, we have to work illegally. We have to escape through the refugee camp to go to work and come back. So, you are not allowed to work technically, so it’s really difficult.

Rachel Taber: What did your dad do in Bhutan before you, announced you are?

Meg Karki: He was a car mechanic. He did have a government job in Bhutan. He did have a government job, but nothing lasts. Yeah. He did have a good job, but we are forcibly kicked out because we wanted a democracy and we didn’t want to live in those countries where they don’t give us our opportunity and anything else. Right now, if you are a Nepali in the Bhutan itself, if you go inside the Bhutan and if you think the Nepali can’t do anything else. But we, if I’m there and if I’m educated and if I have that level of education, I’ll never be a pilot. They don’t let you be a pilot. There are still people leaving Bhutan, those are Nepali, Bhutanese Nepali, but they are not allowed to be a pilot or anything else.

Rachel Taber: What was it? Okay, so I know you know, when you were a kid, yes, for your friends and your anywhere it’s fine. But, what was like, did you go to school? What did you guys do for fun? Did you have a girlfriend?

Meg Karki:    Yeah, I mean school mostly. We go 8 hours to school Monday to Friday and Saturday also little bit. That’s where I learned this English and it’s absurd and Nepali, I’m really bad in Nepali. But, beside that we played sports. all the time like nothing go home eat, go to the school, come back for a 15-minute break, come back home for a lunch. You don’t have to carry lunch like here come back, run away and play with the friends and yeah play soccer. Mostly I play soccer, go swimming in the river, you don’t know how deep it is there. What are you going to be, do you know how to swim or not. You go collect the firewood from the jungle and so on. Yeah, and I did have a girlfriend when I was in high school. She lives in Canada now. She’s my wife now.

Rachel Taber: But did you catch that? Canada, so they got split up which we’ll get to. So, throughout the 1990s and 2000 the UN is starting to work with the Nepali/Bhutanese Community in these refugees camps to find out what’s going to, and I think if I’m right the turning moment was that in 2007 there was a fire at Goldhap camp that destroyed everything and we did have a picture, it didn’t quite make it in. This is Meg and his family when they were younger and that was the moment where the UN really realized that okay people have been here for 17 years now it’s time for us to start thinking of what’s the next option? They can’t go home, and they certainly can’t stay here. So, how long did you live in Goldhap Camp before you were resettled in the US?

Meg Karki: Yeah in those…

Rachel Taber: What was it like? What was the process like of being vetted and going through?

Meg Karki: It is really tough. Everybody wants to go to the homeland, that’s what a home is. Nepal is not our home. Where I was born that’s my motherland. I really want to go to Bhutan and I really still want to visit Bhutan but it’s really impossible and at the time in a refugee camp we all went, like protest and everything else we can do. UN is your support, even agency, refugee agency support us to go to the Bhutan, to our homeland. But, in the government doesn’t give us a way to go. There’s no way you can go and resettlement agency UNHCR decided that this time it’s not going to happen. Bhutan government is not going to take you back.

So, you guys must have to move on. In 2007 the fire caught the whole refugee camp and all the 1400 houses gone. Nothing happened that badly, everybody ran away. It’s in the nighttime and people started thinking should they go to the third country like the United States, Canada or New Zealand and so on? Australia also and some people still wanted to go to Bhutan, and they decided, some people to skip away and they come to the United States in 2007 and when people come to the United States, they started calling, they think that life is great here, a lot of opportunity, a lot of food, a lot of things. You can buy a car; you can buy a house. If you work hard everything is here. You can get a green card in one year and people welcome us. That’s what we heard and my grandparents, my dad, mom came to Oakland, California first and that’s how we ended up in Oakland. So, and we decided, we started the process, but it takes like two or three years.

Rachel Taber: What part of the process take two or three years? Just like the application or..?

Meg Karki: Yeah, bidding process, going through application from the beginning to the end.

Rachel Taber: Like security checks, medical checks?

Meg Karki: Security checks, medical checks, orientation because we’ve never been to this country and I never know about it. We didn’t have a phone. We didn’t have a smartphone like here and we don’t know anything else and we needed training, we needed orientation, how we’re going to exist in the new country. But the good thing is most of us traveled with the family so that we have a support to each other. So, that is the thing and the challenge was really difficult. They will bring a ticket and everybody’s rushing to see that at the end of 2010/2011 people crowded and the one like a pickup truck, this kind of truck comes, and people are like running towards the pickup truck because they might think my ticket is coming, maybe my flight is coming and so on. Yeah and DHS Department of Homeland Security check the things for us from here and once you pass the test, then you are welcome to United States.

Rachel Taber: So, by this time Meg, when his parents had lived there for 19 years by the time you came, and they’d all grown up. So, their cases were separated. So, Meg’s parents came first, and he had to stay behind by six months and then Meg came next and your brother, his wife and son only came two years later, three years later?.

Meg Karki: Yeah, they came three years later.

Rachel Taber: Yeah, three years later and so when you get to the US what is life like? What’s it like? I don’t know, you’ve never had a smartphone you’re chasing down a truck to get here and then you suddenly arrive in Oakland, California.

Meg Karki: I met Doug; the guy is inside here.

Doug Hewitt: Is that good or bad?

Rachel Taber: Yeah.

Meg Karki: My family was here, my mom and dad six months earlier than me. I was really happy to see them, and I knew that everybody’s moving from refugee camp. People are like population is going down. And I knew that there is no future in refugee camp. There is fun, there’s a lot of information, there’s a lot of friendships, a lot of things but there’s no choice. There’s nothing else you can do in the future. Here I can do something or if I can’t do, my kid can do something. She can be born as a citizen, a US citizen and I’ll be a citizen which is a proud moment here but over there you are maybe talented, maybe you have something else, but you don’t have opportunity and nothing else and how long I’m going to stay as a refugee and the word refugee, I really don’t like it at all. I really don’t like it. When people talk to refugee somehow it really hurts. It really hurts to hear talking. I’ve been here for six years now, I am a citizen and moving on but still, I think about other refugees, other people from Syria or other places. It really hurts the heart.

Rachel Taber: So, just to get a little bit back to your process not that I don’t love what you are saying, but what were the challenges when you got here in terms of finding a job?

Meg Karki: The biggest challenge is job because of the reference and resume. I didn’t even hear the word resume before coming to the United States until the age of 22 and resume. No experience, English was poor, very poor and I hunt the job for eight months and I keep on looking for a job. As soon as you get in the United States for four months they’re going to help you from the federal government. They can help you and within four months you are supposed to find a job. If you don’t find a job within four months, they are kicked out of the program. So, you have to find a job and I didn’t find it. But, the good thing was that my dad was working, and we are not looking for a job like an IT or anything else. We are looking for a job like dishwashing, doing like a simple job like making pizza, doing something like maybe janitor or something like that. Yeah.

Rachel Taber:  So, what’s the first job you got?

Meg Karki: First job, I work the job with the packaging of coffee. It was on call. He was a roaster and I work with him in [a coffee company] and I get a little experience. In the beginning which I didn’t like coffee to drink at all, to be honest. But, I really like the smell of coffee when they roast it and I still like to eat the beans when it’s roasted.

I really like it. But now I love coffee, black coffee is my favorite. Not a cappuccino or lattes is that much but black coffee is the best. After that, I find a job in a Little Caesar in east part of Oakland which is really dangerous area, part of the Oakland and here you don’t know anything, and I have to take a bus. There the Little Caesar, the area was like bulletproof glass. So, think about how dangerous

Rachel Taber: Six inches thick between him and the customer.

Meg Karki: and so, I’m risking my life to live to have a job over there and after that move on to Chipotle in San Francisco. Started working there, going to college and we have, he was still in IRC and he started helping find a job for other people through what I have learned in my experience and he started work and so on now and it’ll be 1951 Coffee. Yeah, cool.


31:15 Doug Hewitt on the process of settling refugees in the US and the realities of working with refugees in the coffee industry

Rachel Taber: Okay, I’m going to ask Doug a few questions and then we’ll get back to you in a minute. So, hi Doug you and I have worked way too long together. We’ve known each other since 2011. We met while working at the International Rescue Committee. I have always been on the fundraising and operations side which is why I still do that. But you have always been on the program side. Yeah, I was going to give you a little more of an introduction. So just so you know what Doug’s background is. He started his coffee industry work roasting for Boot Coffee Consulting, which is out of San Rafael in California, which is where he met Meg and helped him with some of that work.

He was also there volunteering concurrently with the International Rescue Committee and I was the Volunteer coordinator and so we had an open position for someone that would help with the Employment Program and that is what Doug started on and of the four years he worked there his role eventually grew until he was the Coordinator of the entire resettlement program there. Helping from pre-arrival through jobs for over 400 arrivals a year. And so, can you give us… The state department sets up the refugee program and there are nine resettlement agencies that conduct this program the International Rescue Committee, which we often call the IRC for short because it’s a mouthful for which Doug and I worked at in Oakland and so can you give us just a little bit more of the process of what the resettlement agency is doing to help families when they arrive?

Doug Hewitt: Sure, so the refugee resettlement process, if you kind of go through the different government websites that are involved in this process the Department of Homeland Security, the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the Department of State. They set a goal of six months to economic self-sufficiency for any Refugee entering the country regardless of previous experience, language, skills, education, anything. Everyone has a similar goal of six-months to economic self-sufficiency. The way that the program is set up is when someone is in the refugee camp and the UN has said this population is in need of resettlement. They make recommendations to the countries that have signed on. There is about 20 countries around the world that have signed on to accept refugees. For a long time, the US had a commitment to accept roughly 50% of that number and until this year the US had actually always exceeded 50%.

This year, they’re actually probably going to come in just under 50% with the anticipated number that we’re hearing that most Refugee agencies don’t even think we’re going to get to half of the anticipated number. So, the anticipated number would be 45,000 but most people think it’s going to be around 20/21/22 000 whereas you go back three years ago we were peeking out over 100, 000 thousand people coming into the country. So, a vast change has been taking place in that process but once someone is selected and they’ve gone through being recommended to the US government through that long vetting process and finally are approved for resettlement in the United States a refugee agency of which there are nine main ones here in the United States have a contract with the US government to facilitate that resettlement process. They’re usually notified that someone is coming about two weeks before that person arrives. When they’re notified that that person is on the way they are given a stipend to facilitate that refugee resettlement. This stipend is supposed to help them through the first 30 days, but can be used up to 90 days and that is approximately $1000 per person. That is the only money that a refugee will be given to officially facilitate their refugee resettlement in the United States. That money is usually used in that first two weeks to rent an apartment.

So, just like any other apartment, you’ve got to pay the first month’s rent. You also have to pay a security deposit. They have to stock the apartment with furniture. There are certain things that the US Government require must be purchased and brand-new like a mattress which are you know; I can see reasons why that would be. There are certain things you can acquire new, sorry used like a sofa but there are certain things that have to be present in the house before a. refugee arrives in the country. They have to stock the apartment with groceries and then just necessary supplies for running a house or an apartment in the US.

So, you can imagine a lot of times that money goes very, very quickly to the point when a refugee arrives in the country and they’re given whatever remains it’s not going to be a lot. Now refugee resettlement happens in about 200 different cities here in the United States, but this number is exactly the same. So, if you’re in Boise, Idaho, in Des Moines, Iowa, in San Francisco, in New York City, in Miami you’re going to get the same amount and so I can say in the Bay Area, you can rent a room in Oakland in the area where Meg and I live now, in that area for about $600. So, think about that. If you have $1000 dollars to resettle someone and you pay the first month’s rent and the security deposit suddenly you’re $200 in the hole already.

So, that means refugee agencies very often have to find other funding even just to facilitate the basics. Once that has taken place refugee agencies are required to provide English language and cultural orientation. So, someone arrives in the country and they want to provide them with English language training and cultural orientation. Now, this is a box that can be checked. It does not say that you have to supply x amount of orientation or x amount of English language. So that means someone could facilitate a one-hour cultural orientation when someone arrives the first day in the United States and they can technically mark that box and say we have provided cultural orientation to the United States. Another agency could provide a two-week extensive cultural orientation and they can also check the same box.

So, you can see it really depends on the resources of a local office to how much English language and cultural orientation can be provided. At the same time refugee agencies, they’re going to have to connect people to employment very quickly. So that almost all refugee agencies will have some form of employment program that they will provide refugees to help connect them with a job. It’s important to note here that that six months to self-sufficiency isn’t just because “Hey, this is our goal that we want to accomplish.” It’s because something very important happens at that 6-month point. When a refugee comes to the United States the plane ticket that brought them to United States is not free. It’s a loan made to the refugee that at six months they have to begin to repay and that loan,

Rachel Taber: That hits their credit report.

Doug Hewitt:             it begins to hit their credit report. So, they have to be economically self-sufficient not just to be able to pay for their own stuff, but the begin to pay back the loan. That brought them to the United States. So, that is the process. And again, when refugee resettlement agencies are working on this they are doing as much as they can with as few resources as they have available and sometimes it’s amazing to see what agencies can do to make this happen, but very often it’s still not enough.

Rachel Taber: So, obviously employments critical like that. That’s a given we can see it. Meg had referenced some of the challenges that are just unique to people new to the country. But can you lay out at least what you saw in terms of what was so hard for people to find jobs when they are new.

Doug Hewitt:  So, when someone is new to the United States and we’ll even take a best case scenario. Someone who has a PHD. They speak fluent English and you think wow; they should be able to land a job right away. Very often it’s not the case simply because maybe they have a PhD and whatever they studied is not recognized here in the United States in the same credentialing system. You say well, maybe they can get reconnected with that professional career. Sure, down the road, but they have to get recertified. That can take months. Even landing a professional job, anyone who’s ever applied for a professional job knows that you put in the application and maybe three, four, five, six months you’ll hear about an interview and then these long processes, this doesn’t work for or they’re trying to apply for a job that they can work right away. Maybe they’re trying to be a waiter or waitress in a restaurant. Maybe they’re trying just to you know to work a simple job and everyone’s like, “Oh, you’re overqualified. I’m sorry. We you know that if we hire you for this job, you’re not going to stay ” and so they won’t give them the opportunity.

Then you take other people who maybe they don’t have a lot of formal education. Maybe their English level is very low. Maybe they grew up in a very rural environment and now they’re suddenly in the middle of a very Urban environment and they’re not sure how to operate and work on time schedules and the barriers that people will face very often and they’ll end up at an interview in front of an employer and the employer is just like I need someone who can just I can stick in the job and they can run with it. I could provide minimal training and they can go. Then, on top of that you’ll also have employers that are like are refugees legal. Okay, okay they’re legal, but why don’t they have any of the documents that I’m used to seeing when I hire someone. Are you sure that this is right?

E-verify, it’s a system that the US Government runs. Very often refugees don’t have the right documents to pass e-verify even though they’re legal to work in the US. So, there’s a lot of problems that prevent refugees from being able to initially land that first job. Even I remember going to a lot of interviews where I would talk with the person all the way to the job interview prepping them and talking in English and they would go into the interview, they come out of the interview and the employer would be like, “Sorry, they don’t speak any English.” I’ll be like, “What do you mean they don’t speak any English?” I’ll be talking to them afterwards and, again in English and I’d be like, “How did it go, what happened,” and the person would be, “I was so nervous. All of my English language just left my brain.  I didn’t know how to answer the questions. I didn’t know what they were asking,” or they put them in the middle of a group interview where they’re going up against people that are competing with them for the job and it suddenly becomes impossible for them to land it.

Rachel Taber: So, let’s marry the two. Let’s marry coffee and refugees and see how this works. So, how is coffee and answer to the challenges of just a situation that we see?

Doug Hewitt: So, I think one of the things that we recognize right away in the coffee industry is that the biggest thing that a refugee is looking for is a dignified opportunity to get their life started. They want to have an opportunity to show who they are. They want to have an opportunity to be themselves and not be themselves in the back room isolated from where everything is happening. They want to be in the middle of things, and I think that we all know. We talk about cafes especially as being these places where community happens, where community is built, where connections are made and I think that one thing here, what is a place that is readily accessible in most neighborhoods around the country and there will be cafes somewhere nearby. That puts them at the core of our society. We think about coffee as this intensely American thing.

Coffee, everyone wakes up, the idea is you wake up, you either make your coffee at home and you go to work, you go to school or as soon as you get to work or get to school if you’re a college student you get coffee. I don’t think they serve it at high schools. But, coffee is this ritual part of American life. So, we’re thinking what type of a job would be a place that would really allow refugees to move from some of the other jobs that they’re able to land initially and put them at a place where they’re right in the middle of where life is happening?

Ultimately, I think realizing that even though coffee is considered very, very American. It’s extremely global. When we begin to work with the people who are coming into our training classes very often we’re talking to people who grew up in coffee-producing areas, that worked on farms had grandparents that worked on farms. Who grew up in places like Syria that had some of the first coffee houses in the entire world and so their history and coffee goes way further back then even our own history. So, in many ways we see it as this perfect marriage between something that is so intensely American but something that is so global as well.

Rachel Taber: So, Meg, can you tell us what it was like to be a barista

Doug Hewitt: When you first started as a barista?

Rachel Taber: when you first started?

Meg Karki: Yeah, first I went to the training program with 1951 coffee and it is really, first I didn’t get it. I didn’t know the names also. It was really hard to pronounce the cappuccino in the beginning, macchiato, cappuccino, latte those things never knew and the espresso, especially espresso. Doing espresso was really terrible. The source and everything, how was is it going to work out. I don’t know. What is drip coffee? What is the best brew and people call house coffee and it is the same thing at the end, but I didn’t know it’s the same thing as the first thing. It’s really complicated and by the time I started doing and keep on doing, keep on doing I got it but something I knew that I’ve been here for a while and I started in 2016 that I can learn. I can learn and I can do this. I have hope, I can do this because I like to take a challenge and that’s the thing. I did it and it started from barista.

I’m in training program to barista, as a senior barista then move on to cafe manager and helping especially and when the new barista came to the cafe at the time, I’m helping them to see what I faced, and I told them you will do better than me. That’s the thing. I always did it and there are some people whose English level is really low. but they’re great workers. I love to have them if I have if I have a cafe, my own cafe, I’ll take them any day. I wish I can pay them overtime and everything else like that. They’re that great. Their art is that is skillful, their work level is there, they make it clean, they are always on time. They’re helpful, they didn’t mind to stay over time, most of the people don’t like to stay overtime.

They want to go home, they want to chat with the friends, they want to have something, but they need the money because they’re not only supporting their life in the United States, not to pay rent, but they need to support in their home country to their mom and dad or their family. So, barista, and now I don’t work with 1951 because I’m in a process to move to Canada and I’m looking forward to working coffee industry and when I say coffee industry, when I come to the last year in America Symposium from that time I noticed how big is the coffee industry and I want to grow in this coffee interest. You don’t need a degree, you didn’t need to graduate, you didn’t need anything. You just need to learn; you just need experience to go and I really like coffee industry now and I want to be part of it, and I want to keep on moving to matter wherever I go.


46:45 Practical steps for cafe owners who are interested in hiring refugees

Rachel Taber: So, imagine now we’ve like got your heart in it and now your heads going like okay, that’s cool, but it will not work for me or I have no idea how this would work, and this is really where the heart of it is. I think we definitely want to share some of our experiences and challenges and how it works and then we want to make sure to leave some time and if we don’t we’re here to obviously talk after. But okay Doug I’m a cafe owner sitting or an employer sitting in the audience and I want to start doing this what are some action steps that you can start taking?

Doug Hewitt:  Alright. So, the first time was easy action step that I would recommend is contact refugee agencies in your city. The easiest way to find this is just type in the name of your location in Google or whatever search engine you would like to use and just type in I don’t know Helena, Montana and refugee agencies or refugee resettlement and see what’s there. There are 200 cities that refugee resettlement is taking place in the country and there’s a good chance that somewhere in your region someone is doing refugee resettlement. So that’s the place that I would start first.

Very often these agencies have employment services that they’re offering to refugees. Now be aware these employment services don’t often involve skills-based training which is part of the reason that we created the program that we did is to offer something to refugees that would be skills-based and industry based. But they are offering, helping connect them to jobs. They’re providing them with interview preparation, helping them build a resume and very often, once a refugee is hired they will help with the I-9 compliance. So, making sure all the documents are in place and making sure that you know exactly which forms they have so you can you can fill that out. Very often they will accompany them to interviews. They will sometimes even, I know we spent countless hours sometimes getting up at four o’clock in the morning to take people to their first day of work and helping them figure out the transportation to and from work.

So, the refugee agencies are often there to provide this service. They’re just looking for companies that will say “Hey we’re open to this, we’re open to this idea,” and sometimes they can even come into your cafe and work with you and work with your staff to provide training. “What is this going to be? What is this going to feel like? What are some things we need to be aware of?” So, really reach out to those, the refugee agencies so they can also give you a clear picture of what is happening in your area so that you get an idea okay, how can we begin this process?

Rachel Taber: Now that as we’ve our employers as well, can you share some steps of how operationally you can start? Okay, that’s the logistics, the black-and-white. What are some of those like soft skill things operationally owner or manager needs to think about?

Doug Hewitt: So, I think the first thing I would say is start small. You may have, if you really buy into this idea and maybe even have a large company and large capacity to hire people still start small. Go ahead and work with an agency and hire one person into your company initially and work through that process with them, figure out what it’s like to see the different documents you need, to onboard them and figure out those processes before you decide to go we’re going to hire 10, 15, 20 people because remember refugees are often people who, when they’re here to the country, they’re in an economic need to get a job swiftly and if you try to hire 10 people at once and then suddenly you’re kind of coming up against different issues with your hiring processes and stuff like that just go ahead and start small. Figure it out and work with one person to support them.

That’s what we’ve done a lot with our partner cafes in the Bay Area. As we talk to them we could just bring one person in, we will work with you on helping you to set up a system. So, part of that is a flexibility in the onboarding process. So, one of the things that we’ve done in our training class is the last day of our training class we actually have what we call an open cafe time and we invite employers to come to the cafe and we run it just like it’s any other café. We have a little point of sale system everything except we’re not taking any money and we allow for employers to see our trainees working in the cafe and part of that came out of that what I told you about before. When someone would go in to an interview and they were so nervous that they couldn’t really display who they were and so I think really thinking about how do you do your interviews? Are you providing an interview situation that allows this person to be comfortable, relaxed? I know that as an employer and having hired people in other agencies before that very often we play the game of psychologists when we’re hiring people. We ask these like nebulous questions that aren’t really what we’re after.

The easiest one is so what are you going to be doing in five years? We all want people to I’m going to work at this coffee company forever, right and then we all know that whenever one says that, they’re not really meaning that, but they’ve answered it the way that we want them to so we’re going to hire them in. So, I think really reducing that down to asking the question that you intend to ask and really trying to make the person feel comfortable so they can show you who they are and thinking about how to bring them into your company.

Obviously the I-9 compliance stuff making sure that you really pay attention to all the documents that are on there and talk to the local agencies about which documents refugees often have so you can make sure you get that done for your business practices. The other part in flexibility onboarding, and this comes to once they start their first day of work. Try to reduce the time from when you offer them the job to when that first day of training or work starts. We worked from some companies that takes three or four weeks for that entire process to go through. A lot of its online, a lot of its really challenging for people who don’t have computers to complete things and so they’re going to a library where they can get an hour worth of computer time. So really try to think about is your onboarding process, is it accessible? Then once they start their first day of work are you putting them in a place to thrive?

That’s where we talked about building a culture of empowerment and I think this is something that doesn’t even just apply to refugees that are you’re bringing into your company. But when you look at your company and you’re like, “Wow, we have, everyone here looks really the same and we’ve hired all the same kinds of people” and you basically have like one mode of operation. Everyone who comes into your cafe the first day of work, they’re going to be at the register and that’s where we’re going to start and then eventually two, three months down the road they might touch the espresso machine because we really, that’s the way we want to work people through our flow and realizing that very often for a refugee coming into your cafe, especially if they don’t feel confident in there, and it’s not whether it’s good or not, but if they don’t feel confident in their English, they’re going to be really nervous at a cash register, but you may put them at the espresso machine.

You may put them at a pour-over stand and for whatever reason they just get it and they can fly with it. So, really think about what are your processes in your cafe for bringing people on. Can you be creative? We’ve had cafes that that was the way that they operated and initially they realized wait, we can teach people how to make our cold brew and how to make our pour over a lot quicker than we can teach them how to work the cash register but if we had just said, well, this is our process and you can’t thrive at the cash register you’re just not going to work out for us. They realized that actually they’re going to work on all of the coffee stuff and then work on the cash register at the end.

So, really think about are you creating a space within your cafe that people can grow. Can they find a way to be successful initially so that they build that confidence, they build their experience with English and I think really looking at diversity as a sustainable growth strategy. If you look at your cafe again, and you see like wow is this is all very similar., we’re all you know, really the same. You’re missing out on a lot of opportunity for your company to grow. We had a thing this past summer where we actually asked our baristas from the seven different countries that we had hired them from to introduce a special drink each week through the summer. We’re in a college area so summer is really a slower time and we wanted to do something to invite the community into our cafe and so, you often see at the barista competitions people often come up with special drinks and so we encourage our baristas to do that and to put something on the menu from their host country during those weeks. A lot of those things are ideas that once that happened we saw how successful they were, and we’ve been working to incorporate those things into our larger menu, and I think when you bring people in who aren’t just like you or just like your typical hire you open yourself up to new ideas. You open yourself up to ways that your company can grow that you may not have even seen before and so I think those are kind of the main things that I think working with agencies looking at your onboarding process and really setting a mindset for empowering people to be successful once you’ve brought them in.


56:00 Audience questions

Rachel Taber: Thank you. Yeah, I think this is the time where we would really love to take some questions. I mean, if no one has questions we can obviously keep jabbering like we could talk for another hour, but I think every café is different, every cafe is a different culture, a different process and we love to be able to help people navigate or think through it. I would say we could ask questions from the microphone, but I think we’re enough group that as long as you can trust the projection of your voice I’ll make sure to regurgitate it so just raise your hands and I can tick you off and we can start right there. That’s a good question. the question is if our trainees are paid throughout that time? They are not. The program, it costs us about $1,800 per person to put them through that two weeks and because we are so heavy on facilitator teacher to students we’re not going to go above a certain ratio. I think the class really maxes out at about seven or eight people because then no one’s going to get enough time to learn how to steam milk or pull shots. So, yeah, it’s a dream, we’d love to get there but it’s just, we can just offer it for free right now.

Doug Hewitt: I think that’s part of the reason that our training class is only a two-week program because it’s really meant to kind of fit within that early employment stage. Not everyone, we also work with people who’ve been here two or three years, but are still in that need of employment that improves our lives, but we really tried to make it a two week program. You make it a month you make it one Friday a week for six months. A lot of those things don’t really work. So, we made it an intense program for two weeks so that we could very quickly try to facilitate employment. There are other programs that we’ve heard where people actually hire someone as a barista for 12 months and it terminates at 12 months and they pay them and that’s their training style. We didn’t want to have a program where we hire someone and then at 12 months we kind of drop them off and like okay now you need to find another job. That’s not the way we wanted to operate and so but that’s the reason we did ours in a two-week module. But yes, they are unpaid, but it is free so.

Rachel Taber: Do you have another question? Yeah, go for it.

Attendee 1: When working with your local refugee resettlement agency, are they picking your trainees for you or are you involved in that process?

Doug Hewitt:  Yes, but also not completely. So, we basically network with all the different agencies and we let them know what we’re doing. We’re actually a part of what they call the East Bay Refugee Forum. So, it’s a consolidation of all the different agencies and we meet like once every two months or something like that to talk about things, but we let them know about our programs that are going on. Anyone can refer anyone through to our program. We also made sure that that was a very simple process so that it happens quickly. But, at the same time, a lot of times people who’ve been through our class are referring their friends and we’ve tried to make that open as well. It’s not like you have to come through one of these agencies. So, it’s kind of on both hands. Some people just find us. We’ve had a guy that found this online and asked if he could be in the program and so.

Rachel Taber: Then I think when they refer people to us our staff will meet with them and often at a coffee shop and have an iced coffee that we treat them to and talk about what it means to be a barista. The physical parts of it, having to be out talking with people, physically what it’s like the schedule. So, we do that to make sure that this is someone who really is ready and wanting to work and will thrive in this sort of career. Yeah, the question was our success in job placement. So, we hover around 80%. Sometimes it’s 77, sometimes it’s 82 but it’s a good thing to say that 80% of our people find jobs

Doug Hewitt: The majority of those are in the coffee industry. We do not require people who finish our program to get a job in the coffee industry. Again, recognizing that they need a job as soon as possible and if a furniture store offers them a job and they want to take it we’re not going to be like, “Hey, we gave you training, you can’t take that job.” We want them to take it but again a part of what we also attempt to do, and we’ve seen this happen a lot where people just leave our class just having confidence that, “Hey I can do something here.” It gives them confidence to just land a job period and that’s success for us too. I think there was in the back.

Rachel Taber: Is there a question back there?

Attendee 2: How much do you pay your refugee trainees?

Doug Hewitt: Very often. So, for example in San Diego one of the refugee agencies there has a very specific Youth Employment Program because also for families usually one income is not going to be enough for a family to survive in the US. So, very often they’re looking for ways for the wife and the husband and if there’s an older child whose between 16 and 24 who can get a job, they are very often looking for ways to facilitate that. So, you will find some agencies that have specific employment programs for that group, and I would say a large number of refugees would fall into that area. Sometimes it goes a little bit above 24, but, there are a lot of refugees that are in that.  Fifty percent of refugees that are resettled are children and so, even if they’re two or three years down the road there will be some of them that maybe they came to the US when they, when they were 16 and two years of high school in the US, is not going to get them on a college path right away. So, they’re going to be looking for a career path that doesn’t necessarily access college education or at least immediately anyway. This would be the same kind of opportunity that you could provide for them.

I would just kind of like look at these different agencies in your area and again see which ones pop up again. These are the nine main refugee resettlement agencies. A lot of times they will put an affiliate office there. So, maybe there was already an agency doing work with refugees and why do we need to open an office there? We’ll just empower this office to facilitate it for us. So, you may not see one of these names specifically in your city, but these are the nine main ones that usually you can get on their website and find out where their offices are operating as well.

Attendee 3: Can the refugees choose what cities they live in?

Rachel Taber: Yeah, it’s kind of when I used to describe this and I don’t mean this in a flip way, but it’s a little bit like a sports draft and where agencies or where offices pop up over the years is often based on international or global trends or what’s going on. A lot of offices in California, in the San Diego and the Bay Area opened after the fall of Vietnam and when there were Vietnamese refugees coming over and that was a very, even in Seattle, that was something timely and distance and geography wise that matched up well. So, agencies in different cities have popped up for those reasons. When a person is deciding where they want to come, you may have a decision in it. and you may not and so when Meg’s parents came here. Did your parents have a choice where they were settled?

Meg Karki: Usually we did have a choice because my grandma was here.

Rachel Taber: Your grandma was here.

Meg Karki: Because they want to reunite the family, but mostly my grandma and my uncle’s didn’t have a choice. So, they landed in Oakland, right. But some people in North Carolina didn’t have a choice. They just put a random number there you are pulling the number and you are this place to go, you are in this state, you have to go to Minnesota or some places like that. But, actually if you have a family already there then you do have a choice and you have a high chance but if you don’t then you have no choice.

Doug Hewitt: Some of Meg’s friends ended up in Anchorage, Alaska

Meg Karki: Alaska

Doug Hewitt: from Nepal. So, you can imagine. Anchorage is probably a great place, but you can imagine coming from subtropical Nepal to…

Meg Karki: Yeah, Alaska and some in places like that Alaska and some in North Dakota, in Grand Forks and so on yeah.

Attendee 4: Why do so many refugees settle in the Midwest? Is it because that’s where their $1000 goes the farthest?

Doug Hewitt: Part of it is that. Cost of living is something that the US Government evaluates in an area and an agency has, in order to justify the number of people that they’re going to put, a refugee agency would say to the US government we think that we can resettle this many people. Here is our study of the cost of living in the light of land. And so again, in the Midwest you may find a lot of places where the cost of living is a little bit lower.  You do have to kind of balance that with the job market, right and that can also be the challenge of certain areas and so, trying to find that balance. But, I think remembering again that some of the expectations are unrealistic and so, being able to prove that you can resettle this number of people. It doesn’t often, again it doesn’t mesh with the reality on the ground.

Attendee 5: My cafe is in the mid-west, in a city that receives a lot of refugees. But there are a lot of strong opinions in both directions. We’re considering hiring refugees, but we’re concerned about the safety and privacy of our potential refugee employees.

Rachel Taber: Right. It’s a hard line and we’ve talked with other companies about this. I mean, I think from one perspective, when we’re training people and there’s maybe a job open with us. We’re very forthright that when you come work for 1951 and you’re working in our shop, it is known that you came from the refugee program. People are going to ask you about it. They’re going to ask you your story. Now we always empower our staff to be like you only share as much as you want to but that’s just part of the job of working here. Oftentimes people are like no, that is not what I want to do. We’re like great, we’ll help you find a job somewhere else where you can start integrating into the community in a different way. So, I think that would be one thing I would suggest is that whomever you’re applying, if you want to make that a part that you share that with them.

Doug Hewitt: I think also, I mean that’s part of the reason with our training program we provide the opportunity to be placed in another café. We had an opportunity for someone to work in our cafe and we explain what Rachel was talking about to her and, she decided that because many people from her country also come to the US as international students and immigrants she didn’t feel comfortable doing that but still really wanted a job in the industry. So, having partner cafes that we could work with to provide a job opportunity for her to just be another employee at the cafe. No one would know that she’s any different than any other employee there allows us to kind of do both things. For refugees like Meg are like I want to support other people and speak out about this issue. They have that opportunity. Those who just want to be here

Meg Karki: and just want to live that life. They are like same thing. My wife doesn’t want to talk about it. So, all the time she tells to the people she is from Nepal. I’ll tell from Bhutan because she doesn’t want to bring her childhood and like those memories sometimes… But for me, I want to be strong and I want to talk, and I want to challenge, and I want to tell the people the whatever the Bhutan gross national happiness is not true. That’s the thing, some people really want to and some people no and you have to figure out that. Unlike sometimes, you might have to ask to the refugees and whoever’s working in your cafe or like in your community and so on.

Rachel Taber: I think from a safety perspective because I definitely, being on the operational side understand what you mean. It opens these millions of folders in your head and we did, we were worried about that. There’s no way to get around that. We definitely were like, “We’re definitely standing for something at a time and place when, well we’re in Berkeley, California so it’s a little bit different a reception. I’m from Minnesota. My husband’s from rural Iowa so I definitely can relate. I know we had our entire staff sat down with the Berkeley police officer before we opened to just talked about and have like a really open conversation so that we had a lot of trust in them that they were giving us tips and tools. What do we do if someone comes in the store and they’re being really loud and yelling things and they were able to share with us some really great tactics from that and what else have we done safety-wise?

I think the one thing that, I obviously talk about refugees a lot and I will have like single-serving friends on planes, I have some Trump supporting family and so the one thing that I can never. Any time I talk with someone one-on-one about what the refugee program is and how it is part of this like cultural fabric of the US and it’s an honor and the honorable thing that we’re doing. I’ve never had someone walk away and not at least from a very humanistic level like really support it and so I think it’s also how you’re framing that conversation in and how you’re framing it. Are you sharing on social media? Is it something in store? Are you trying to make it one-on-one? Are you trying to be really stand up and stand out about it? I mean, I know something that’s been a benefit to us is that we do not talk about politics. We are not here to talk about politics. I’m here to talk about humans and I’m here to talk about how this is a human worthy of our love and our respect and they’re trying to work hard and better their life and there is not one person in this country that that does not resonate with. That is an American value regardless of whatever side you’re on.

Doug Hewitt: Doing quality coffee in our café, has it been difficult?

Meg Karki: No, I mean it’s been a pretty easy especially specialty industry coffee, industry is easier. Then I can see that the people working in a Starbucks and working in our cafes, they have so many drinks and the specialty coffee industry has special drinks and special measurement and they have fancy tools and all those things. This makes it much easier I think in terms of what I see from working with refugees and in trainings and myself. That makes it much easier than a biggest. We have subtle menu and you have a specific menu and you don’t have three cup sizes of drink like those kind of things also and this makes it really different. You have small and large or maybe one size cappuccino or whatever.

Doug Hewitt: I mean to briefly add to that. That’s part of the reason that we enjoy working in the specialty coffee industry. It’s because there is this idea of quality and simplicity going hand in hand which, when we talk there are different brew methods and things like that. If you really want to get to the nitty, nitty-gritty of it. Yes, it is rocket science in an essence, it is extremely complicated. But then, at the same time learning how to reduce it down to the most simple elements of quality are really important and in essence that’s also a skill that we need to have in the industry to be able to communicate to our customers. They’re not coming in understanding extraction rates and all of these things and so the ability for us to work with our staff and being able to communicate that an, for them honestly, I would say most of our staff now are better at latte art and things like that than I am. The work they’ve been doing, it’s unbelievable all the things I see our staff doing now because they found a place that they belong, and they’ve taken off with it.

Rachel Taber: Well, thank you guys so much and thanks so much for the conversation.

Meg Karki: Thank you so much.


1:11:00 Outro

Heather Ward: That was Rachel Taber, Doug Hewitt, and Meg Karki at Expo in 2018. Remember to check our show notes for a full transcript of this lecture and links to our World of Coffee lecture offering this June.

This has been an episode of the SCA Podcast. Thank you for joining us!

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