My first encounter with them was innocent, and I was naive that such a place existed.
Invited by a friend, we met in an unassuming Victorian-era house converted into a coffee shop. As I had thought many times before in other businesses of this type, it was “nice.” Because let’s face it, coffee shops are a dime a dozen anymore. There are so many converted houses that serve their special brand of coffee, but when you’ve visited so many, they all begin to seem the same.
It existed in a Olde Town Arvada, an area that retains a very small-town look and feel, and so this particular shop fit right in with its surroundings. The words that leapt to mind were “quaint,” “interesting,” and “nice.” These are very noncommittal words, designed to not have to express a strong opinion.
It wasn’t until I was inside and able to look around more closely that my eyes were opened, that my noncommittal words changed to commitment. “Wonderful,” “beautiful,” and “incredible” were now roosting in my head as my gaze swept the rooms and redesigned layout made to accommodate a good number of customers. The idea that grabbed my attention in the most startling manner was the concept of this particular shop.
When one walks through the front door to Global Goods and Coffee (5613 Olde Wadsworth Blvd, Arvada, CO 80002
(720) 389-9030), you’re greeted by a chalkboard that explains what the dire circumstances currently are in a country we don’t often hear much about. As you look more closely at the photographs and flyers posted throughout the building, you begin to realize you’re in a much different place than you’ve ever experienced before. You start to see that those smiling faces pouring your coffee and steaming your milk aren’t employees. They’re volunteers. And that the money raised by this coffee shop translates into donations for their overseas efforts in bringing much-needed medical help to peoples who reside in war-torn or disaster-struck areas. Not only medical help, but also high-level training (in medicine and in survival in such violently devastated areas), shelter, and most importantly, reuniting communities torn asunder by their circumstances. These aren’t the efforts of a team aiming for celebrity or stardom. These are the efforts of people who believe that there is something wrong with a world where millions of people are chased from their homes and their lives by conflict and disaster. True humanitarian effort.
My first stunned thought was: this is a non-profit! And though it’s cleverly disguised as a coffee and pastry shop, the money raised goes to further the efforts of their parent organization, Global Refuge International. While you’re attempting to digest this new information, you sip on your delicious cup of coffee and are able to sit back and really take in the ambiance of your surroundings. And then you want to learn more…learn as much as you can about this amazing effort being waged right under your nose. Housed practically in your backyard.
What really woke me up is the idea that so many other businesses could be making such Herculean strides in helping our brothers and sisters in foreign lands to survive day-to-day rather than raking in millions in profits that go only to benefit those at the top.
The goal and focus of Global Refuge International (GRI) is to change how aid is provided to the displaced worldwide, so there is long term benefit and change in the behavior of the local population, and an understanding by local governments as to how to protect themselves and their local people, yet provide the necessary help to those forced to flee. It’s not flying in a group of Americans to put a band-aid on a horrible situation, but providing feet-on-the-ground assistance and training, so as to make outside involvement unnecessary, to create a self-sustaining community facing real-life situations.
And every single person providing assistance is a volunteer.
In a world where the media creates sound-bytes designed to elicit sympathy from their armchair viewers, GRI is risking their lives in the midst of wars and disasters to make sure those uprooted by their circumstances do not perish, but receive the assistance they require to survive.
I asked one of the volunteers why there wasn’t more marketing being done to bring attention to their efforts. The response was surprising, but made sense. GRI performs such crucial recovery work that they don’t have time to focus on getting the word out via the usual means.
That’s what Global Refuge Stories, this blog, is set to do. To provide much-needed positive exposure to the work being done behind the scenes so as to increase not only the visibility of their efforts, but to bring in increased donations so that their work can continue. They’re doing something very few others are even attempting, and I’m blown away by it. And by their beautiful humility and modesty in doing so. The work GRI is doing in 15 countries, helping locals and refugees alike, is a study in true charity, where nothing is expected in return, yet each volunteer knows they’re contributing to one of the largest humanitarian organizations to exist.
Consider donating your time or money to GRI. Every dollar helps get supplies like medicine, training, and food to those whose very existence depends on your involvement.