If you’ve been on the Internet for a little while, you’ve likely heard of Hank and John Green in one way or another. The pair is known as the vlogbrothers on Youtube, but they are both responsible for their own individual contributions to “decreasing world suck,” or — in other words — doing good.
John is a renowned author (“The Fault in Our Stars,” anyone?), and you have almost certainly spotted Hank on your TikTok FYP as the app’s resident science nerd and ethical digital media industry leader (don’t worry; he’s also an amazing author and the founder of VidCon).
Between the duo’s annual Project For Awesome and their Awesome Socks Club, they have been on a mission to use their platform to uplift others financially. But recently, the Greens have taken on a new endeavor: coffee for good.
What is the Awesome Coffee Club?
Just like the Awesome Socks Club, the Awesome Coffee Club (ACC) is a subscription model that sends folks ethically-made items with 100% of profits donated to strengthen maternal and child health in Sierra Leone.
The Awesome Socks Club donated over $900,000 to help strengthen healthcare systems in impoverished communities, and the Greens have focused on using those funds — and the subsequent funds from the ACC — to build a teaching hospital for maternal health in Sierra Leone.
The Greens have been long-time supporters of nonprofit Partners in Health, founded by Dr. Paul Farmer, and their efforts to “radically reduce” maternal and child mortality in Sierra Leone stem from this ongoing relationship, which strives to raise $25 million over five years.
The hospital broke ground in April 2021, and the Maternal Center of Excellence (MCOE) is well underway with changing lives in Sierra Leone, where the maternal mortality rate is 1 in 20 (though this rate is quickly declining, thanks to the help of frontline healthcare workers and government initiatives like these).
“The MCOE will be owned by the people of Sierra Leone through their government, and it will be staffed almost entirely by Sierra Leonean healthcare workers and supported and funded to a large degree by the government of Sierra Leone,” John said. “The heroes of this story are the people… who sacrifice so much to help vulnerable women deliver safely.”
John shared that leaders from Partners in Health are fully capable of saving women’s lives, but they just need the right tools to do it.
“That is our challenge and our opportunity,” Green continued. “To help provide the tools to this community so they can radically reduce maternal and child mortality.”
The ACC is one way supporters can directly assist in the building and funding of this hospital. The goal of the subscription services like the sock and coffee clubs is to give folks a reliable product they’d use all the time and be able to support the cause all at once.
“We think by reorienting our consumption habits to be more effectively redistributive, the world can suck less,” John said in a TikTok. “That’s the model.”
So far, the ACC has generated over $100,000, while the entire vlogbrothers community (affectionately referred to as Nerdfighteria) has raised over $20 million to help begin construction of the hospital. John says: “we’re just getting started.”
How does Awesome Coffee Club source its coffee?
In addition to providing necessary funding to the maternal health projects in Sierra Leone, the ACC is dedicated to doing good for coffee farmers and the communities where they work.
By developing the “Don’t Forget To Buy Awesome Green Coffee Sourcing Framework” (classic Green brother naming system, by the way), the company focuses on three main criteria for sourcing coffee beans: community, environment, and compensation.
Along with partners Sucafina Specialty, the ACC works directly with small farmers’ collectives in the Tolima region of Colombia to directly pay farmers and allow farmers to charge higher prices through collective organizing.
Awesome Coffee beans are also grown in communities that actively work to eliminate deforestation and engage in regenerative agriculture, incentivizing farmers to use existing coffee groves rather than clearing forests for new ones.
“We know much more about where and how our coffee beans are grown, harvested, and processed than most coffee companies do,” the ACC website reads.
“We pay higher-than-market rates for Awesome Coffee beans, and we guarantee a minimum payment to farmers, even if market rates drop. This means we get the very best beans available while also increasing farmer income. Farming and processing coffee is hard work that deserves fair pay, which is why we work directly with farmers’ collectives and pay these farmers a premium.”
This does, of course, also mean that the coffee people buy is going to be a tad more expensive than the beans they might get at the supermarket. ACC offers ground and whole coffee beans for $22 a bag.
However, consumers can feel good about the conscious choice to subscribe to ACC, and as John reminds his followers: “Nobody who owns the Awesome Socks or Awesome Coffee Club benefits financially from it.”
Why is this good news?
ACC provides a model for ethical and thoughtful business practices and reimagines how our daily consumption can benefit other people and the planet.
As Hank says in a TikTok, ACC is an example of how we can use our ambitions in a way to help others, not just in the name of “greed or comparison.”
“There are really big problems in the world, and some of them are objectively easy for everyone to agree that they should be solved,” Hank says.
“That is a flame. That is a flame that is easy to light and easy to fan, for me to try and drive new, interesting things. If we can make the things we’re doing be about that, then I want to do it.”
How else can I support maternal and child health in Sierra Leone?
Not a coffee drinker? Don’t have $22 to spare every month? That’s okay! There are other ways for you to learn more about and support the efforts to confront the maternal and child mortality crisis in Sierra Leone.
The first is free if you have a Netflix subscription. Watch the documentary “Bending The Arc,” which tells the story of how Paul Farmer, Jim Yong Kim, and Ophelia Dahl started the international movement at the center of some of the world’s most pressing humanitarian crises. Essentially, it’s the story of Partners In Health, and how this organization continues to “bend the arc” towards truth, justice, and equality.
If you’re more into socks, you can subscribe to the Awesome Socks Club for $13.75 a month and receive a super fun pair of socks designed by an independent artist, with all of the profits going directly to the Maternal Center of Excellence.
If you’re an internet power-user and want to raise money for John and Hank Green’s nonprofit, Foundation to Decrease World Suck (which will then be donated to Partners in Health and several other community-chosen nonprofits during the annual Project for Awesome), you can score free donations for every new browser tab you open via Tab for a Cause.
If you want to get weird, order Pizza John merch during Pizzamas each fall.
Lastly, you can set up a recurring donation with Partners in Health to fund these maternal and child health projects.
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