A Charleston Southern University business class is promoting a coffee roasted in Summerville to benefit a Latin American nonprofit that houses pregnant sex workers and sex trafficking victims.
Sales from two 12-ounce bags of Bebe Beans, a Colombian coffee with tasting notes of cocoa and graham crackers, pay for the costs of housing one woman for a day, said Brian Miller, a Medellin, Colombia, missionary who founded Casa Esther in 2019.
The home houses pregnant women, some of whom are young teenagers, who receive food, shelter, medical care and job training on-site. Medellin hosts a large textile industry, so some of the skills taught include sewing and leather work. There also is a computer lab and on-site cosmetology school run mostly by volunteers.
Miller has been a missionary in Colombia for 16 years, working with the area’s sex trafficking victims, homeless people and refugees while planting a church in the region.
He doesn’t source the beans himself, letting Derek Hicks of Sunrise Roaster handle those details. Hicks was recruited for the effort by Miller’s friend Darin Gerdes, a business professor at Charleston Southern University.
When Gerdes heard of Casa Esther last year, he wanted to work a way into helping out the organization into his college curriculum.
This semester, students Anna Adamian, Ariana Mael, Katrina Webster and David Darby are working on a public relations campaign to spread the word about Bebe Beans. Their job is to grow coffee sales with a goal of helping Casa Esther house twice as many as the six women it now accommodates.
Part of the team’s job is to work with Hicks of Sunrise Roaster.
“I’ve had a lot of success in business, and I wanted to give back,” said Hicks, who rebranded the Bebe Beans website and set up an e-commerce shop before handing it over to the Charleston Southern University class.
Hicks said he drinks the coffee every morning.
Altogether, Bebe Beans coffee sales now pay for about 70 percent of Casa Esther’s costs, said Miller, who is affiliated with Global Transformation Ministries. The rest comes from individual donors.
Colombia’s Bogota-Medellin Highway is known as a destination for child sex trafficking. More than 100 cases of child sexual exploitation were filed with authorities every month between January 2013 and July 2018, according to investigative organization Insight Crime. The figure is estimated to be rising, with the number of reported cases having tripled in the last five years.
While Casa Esther only houses a handful of women out of tens of thousands, Miller said even a small dent can make a difference.
So far, two women who stayed at Casa Esther have given birth, found jobs in the textile industry and moved into their own apartments, Miller said. It’s those success stories that fuel him to keep making a difference.
Reach Kalyn Oyer at 843-371-4469. Follow her on Twitter @sound_wavves.