May 15

Through the Lens

B Hugh and Dukale plant coffee trees 2b

HJ and Dukale walk_highrez-2Ethiopia. It is an old land of ancient people with courage so calm that it whis­pers rather than shouts. It is a courage that speaks of hope, of strength, of unfailing deter­mi­na­tion. It is the land that many of us know as the birth­place of coffee.

As a teenager, what I knew of Ethiopia was what I saw on the tele­vi­sion in the 80’s: the Ethiopia of extreme droughts and a starving people. The images moved a world into action and brought aid to people in need. And then we went about our lives and the aid ran out. Eventually, the rains came back, but by then, the tele­vi­sion crews had long since moved on to another equally devas­tating disaster. But the Ethiopian people worked their land, loved their fami­lies and built their dreams.

Ethiopia is the home of Dukale’s Dream.

I recently was invited to preview the docu­men­tary film titled, “Dukale’s Dream”, featuring Hugh Jackman and his wife, Deborra-lee Furness. The docu­men­tary tells the tale of how Jackman and his wife, as ambas­sadors of World Vision Australia, travel to Ethiopia to see how a devel­op­mental project is impacting the people and helping to empower a commu­nity.

On their journey they meet Dukale, a 27-year-old coffee farmer from the Yirgacheffe region of Ethiopia. The narra­tive of Dukale and his family unfolds with simple eloquence and is woven into a much larger tale, helping us under­stand the changing role of devel­op­ment within coun­tries of need.

Giving money is remark­ably easy to do—we write checks, swipe cards, check the box all the time. But few of us are given the oppor­tu­nity to witness first-hand the impact devel­op­ment has on a commu­nity. While watching the film, you lose the idea behind his fame, you only see a man trying to make a differ­ence and trying to under­stand how to continue to empower from afar.

“This is not the way things are meant to be, and it is not the way they have to be.”1

—Hugh Jackman

I spoke with the director of “Dukale’s Dream”, Josh Rothstein, known for his docu­men­tary work in the areas of social change and devel­op­ment. Rothstein is no stranger to a people in plight. I asked him what he hoped the impact of “Dukale’s Dream” would be?


“There are concepts in the film that the general audi­ence is aware of and have some famil­iarity with. We have an oppor­tu­nity to distill some of those parts and weave them together. I don’t think there has been enough pop-culture expo­sure to artic­u­late the message to a broader audi­ence; we hope to do that here.

It is not just about “fair trade”, as one could argue there are under­lying issues with fair trade, but it is more about the commu­nity devel­op­ment and the complex issues facing the coffee farmers all over the world. As a consumer, you have an oppor­tu­nity to artic­u­late the idea of why it matters.

Ultimately, in that way, we have a larger respon­si­bility to speak to our audi­ence, apply this message to their everyday lives and help them under­stand their role in the value chain as buyers.”

Through the lens of Dukale’s Dream, you begin to under­stand what many non-profit orga­ni­za­tions and compa­nies in the coffee industry already know, our world is so very much connected. Our sisters, our brothers, live in villages, sleep in huts, struggle for running water, they need “a hand up—not a hand out.”2

Two prevailing paths of trans­for­ma­tion emerged within the last decade. The first was the shift from just giving money or aid, to creating change through devel­op­ment. The other is the sheer connec­tivity that tech­nology has made possible, shrinking the size of the globe and expanding our market­place.

We have to get to a point where people in extreme poverty are at a level beyond getting the minimal needs of survival met. Once beyond that, devel­op­ment or empow­er­ment of a commu­nity can take hold and be trans­for­ma­tive.

Development is the root of change that empowers people to expand their own lives through communal sustain­ability. Building stronger commu­ni­ties through educa­tion, training, mentoring and growth through new oppor­tu­ni­ties. Communities thrive through inno­va­tion and if we give regions the tools neces­sary to solve regional issues, sustain­able trans­for­ma­tion takes hold and the next gener­a­tion bene­fits expo­nen­tially.

Those of us who have spent much of their lives in “coffee” under­stand. But what of those who are just outside our “world” of coffee? Do they under­stand the impact they could have if they chose to drink coffee that is fairly traded, with sustain­able prac­tices?  The chal­lenge lies in tapping into their buying voices. This is the next level of true sustain­able development—utilizing the buying power of the consuming coun­tries and creating lasting change with each cup.

This trans­for­ma­tion must occur all along the supply chain and goes beyond telling the story of the coffee we drink in the morning on an artis­ti­cally drawn chalk­board. The power of sustain­able change means getting the end user fully vested in the accep­tance that they have the power to trans­form lives.

Through the inspiring journey in “Dukale’s Dream,” we are shown the power of our choices here at home and how we have the ability to help those who, like us, dream of creating some­thing more for our fami­lies and those we love.

The world is a very small place in reality. People are cultur­ally diverse but our needs are the same. We under­stand the quite courage of the Ethiopian people and we hear their dreams like our own, whis­pered in the dark, taking shape in the night, trans­forming with the dawn.

1 Hugh Jackman, Dukale’s Dream, film, 2015

2 Hugh Jackman, Dukale’s Dream, film, 2015

by Kelle Vandenberg

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