The innovative Cria Carmo Project in Carmo de Minas makes a positive impact on children through an immersive, educational after-school program—and you can help!
BY KENNETH R. OLSON
I was recently lucky enough to visit Brazil as part of Cafe Imports’ and Carmo Coffees’ auction Carmo Best Cup. While attending the auction and the multiple rounds of cuppings leading up to it, the international jury had the opportunity to visit the Cria Carmo Project in the nearby town of Carmo de Minas, and it was an awesome thing to see.
Cria Carmo is an after-school program for at-risk kids between the ages of 7 and 17. Through the Cria Carmo project, the children learn about individual responsibility, civic life, teamwork, and social skills through swimming, futsal, and chess. To stay in the program, the kids must show up every day on time and meet their leaders’ expectations. As the kids learn and practice their sports with each other, they are also encouraged to participate in local and regional competitions. Currently some 230 children are enrolled in the program.
The program operates every day of the school week at the URCA Club, the country club in town, which donates its facilities for use by Cria Carmo. During our visit, we were able to see a demonstration by the swim team, which had recently sent members to compete at the state level for a competition. It’s only been since the existence of Cria Carmo that anyone from Carmo de Minas had qualified to compete at the state level.
The organizers see sports as a reward and an opportunity for the kids to gain important life experiences, team spirit, socialization, and community value. The Cria Carmo Project believes that through the athletic endeavor of sports and the intellectual fitness built by activities like chess, they can help steer at-risk youth away from the temptations of drugs and violence that all too often derail young lives in their community. But athletics, sports, and competition are not the only things kids at Cria Carmo learn—they also have English classes, civics lessons, and cultural celebrations.
Children who qualify for the program must also maintain good grades at school, meet study requirements, and receive assistance if they struggle to reach their academic goals. Geoffrey Meeker, from French Truck Coffee in New Orleans, was so impressed with his visit to Cria Carmo last year when he attended Carmo Best Cup that he asked what he could do to help. When told that anything he could give would be beneficial, though, he demurred. He noticed that many of the kids playing futsal were doing so barefoot. He asked if he could give the kids something tangible, like shoes, and the organizers were overwhelmed when he donated dozens and dozens of pairs of shoes. During our visit this year, he was on hand to give out some of the shoes to the kids in person. It was an awesome sight to see.
But the organizers were also right that anything can help, and so the good folks at Cafe Imports and Carmo Coffees set up an online donation portal through PayPal that anyone can give money to support this tremendous program. Additionally, Cafe Imports is purchasing a container of Yellow Bourbon quality coffee with a .10cent/lb. premium, of which 100 percent of those premium proceeds will benefit Cria Carmo.
Noah Namowicz of Cafe Imports said, “Cria Carmo is really important to us because it helps support the vulnerable children in this town that we work so closely in with coffee. We view Cria Carmo as a way to make sure that these kids have a safe space to grow and develop life skills and contribute back in meaningful and impactful ways in their community. Ultimately, having a generation of extremely capable, happy, and educated children benefits this growing area in ways that certainly will impact the progress made at the farm level, but also bring support in other important areas like future educators, health professionals, and community leaders. Cria Carmo is a long-term investment to ensure that Carmo de Minas continues to develop for generations into a thriving community that is at the forefront of specialty coffee in Brazil.”
Now I’m going to go make a donation, and I hope you will too.