It was always loud. Too loud to really hear what anyone was saying. Let alone in another language. I would ask if we could talk somewhere quieter, relying on my colleague to have my back and the recording device on my person to corroborate our conversation. Then we would find a place, away from the loudness, to sit down, get a drink and talk.
Rarely did I meet a boy, girl or young woman who didn’t come from a place of suffering. Rarely did I find a sex worker who’d spent their childhood planning for a career in the red light district. What I did tend to hear, however, was stories of sadness and abuse, family members lost to addiction, young children at home suffering ill-health, broken relationships, desperate poverty. Those were the typical circumstances I encountered in the bars, brothels and on the street corners of the Dominican Republic. More often than not, their circumstances didn’t allow for me to rally the troops and respond. More often than not, that person became a statistic on my excel spreadsheet. But of course, they’re not a statistic, but a person in need of help.
After returning from this brief but powerfully impactful year of investigating the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) on the island, it became clear that life, for me, would never quite be the same again.
Desperate not to let the stories of these boys, girls and young women disappear into the fogginess of memory’s past, I explored an idea. And here we are, 7 months and a couple days later, launching a coffee company. The beginning of a response. Fathoming exactly how we are to right the wrongs of this terrible injustice may seem somewhat unachievable, but I would hasten to suggest, it all begins with a response. I am going to presume that everyone who finds our humble website and pays for a bag of superb, but unquestionably expensive coffee, feels the same way. A desire to respond.
So, friends, let us begin.
Written by Bryn Frere-Smith
Founder – Blue Bear Coffee Co.