Mel Evans-Glenn and an all-female team of friends will run seven marathons in seven days across the Democratic Republic of Congo for the sake of women coffee producers
By Jeremy Martin
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE
What’s the most difficult thing you’ve ever done for a cup of coffee? We’ll bet whatever the answer, it pales in comparison to what Mel Evans-Glenn and her team of friends are preparing to embark on to raise money for and awareness of women coffee producers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Mel, co-owner of Boulder, Colo., wholesale roaster Conscious Coffees has recruited a group of eight other women to take part in an epic run that will cover 183.4 miles ”that’s seven marathons ”in seven days, through the wilderness of the DRC.
Run Across Congo, which takes place May 24 “30, will be perhaps the most grueling and life-affirming week of Mel’s and her fellow runners’, lives, she says.
This area of the world ranks among some of the lowest in the world for gender equality and gender development, according to the 2014 Human Development Report. “It is a place where rape is commonplace, an everyday occurrence, leaving in its wake outcast women, injured victims, and unplanned pregnancies, with up to 66 percent of the population of women having incurred sexual violence, many repeatedly,” Mel says. “In the DRC, nearly 70 percent of the 66 million population ranks below the poverty line. I am doing this run in solidarity with female coffee producers to raise awareness and funds for much needed gender equality work in the region.”
Though Mel has been a casual runner for a while, her endurance, mental strength, and desire to make a difference will no doubt be tested while running along the remote Eastern shore of Lake Kivu.
“I am a runner, I’m really a trail runner at heart,” she says. “My way of coping with life is to get out in nature and run through trails. This is new [her Run Across Congo training], it’s really intense. I think in my head I intellectually knew what the training was going to look like because I had chatted with people who had done it before, but honestly now that I’m in the thick of it, it’s the hardest physical thing I’ve had to do in my life.”
Mel and her all-woman team have left the United States to join other runners in the DRC for Run Across Congo who hope to make positive change in a country that badly needs a boost. Similar runs have been carried out in 2011 in Ethiopia and 2012 in Palestine. Each woman was responsible for raising $15,000 for the cause, and each agreed to pay all of her own travel expenses.
“I’ve been involved with this program for a while,” she says. “I’ve wanted to do this run for many years.”
The Boulder coffee community came together for a fundraiser on May 1. More than 30 coffee pros came out to the Cup Espresso Cafe to compete in a friendly drink-building contest to raise money for the cause.
Mel understands what a wild idea this is ”and she’s up for it. œI was chatting with a geography professor at [the University of Colorado] who said he’d get some maps for us,” says Mel. “He came back and said, ‘You’re not going to believe this but I couldn’t find anything. You’re really going in to the middle of nowhere.’ We’re not running in an area where we will be sleeping in hotels at night. We’re taking sleeping bags and mats.”
Mel knows how crucial the fundraising aspect of this project is, but she’s equally impassioned in her efforts to share the story of the plight of women farmers in the DRC, and spread that information. She explained that many people who have the power to make a difference simply don’t understand what’s at stake.
œThe fundraising is very important, there’s no doubt about it, and I do believe that every dollar we spend is a vote for how we want the world to be,” she says. “If people have the information, I think they may make different choices. The money we spend can help people live and impacts the environment. I think this is an incredible way to get out there and talk to people.”
Not just talk, but also run, and hopefully making a big difference.
Run Across the Congo and Conscious Coffees will be taking donations through the remainder of the May. To get involved please visit http://www.consciouscoffees.com/ or http://www.razoo.com/story/Cc-Run-Across-Congo