With generous support from Shuswap Coffee Company owner Tara Shantz (middle) and Askew’s Foods, Laura Payne and Sherrelle Anderson of Rise Up, were able to prepare 13 Christmas hampers for families in need.

Many fine friendships have been forged over a cup of coffee.

by BARB BROUWER

A new one is brewing between a non-profit support group and the owner of a local coffee company.

Shuswap Coffee Company owner Tara Shantz recently donated $1,000 to the Rise Up Indigenous Wellness program.

Program directors Sherrelle Anderson, a social worker and member of the Saddle Lake Cree Nation, and Indigenous educator and member of the Xa’xtsa Band Launa Payne created Rise Up two years ago in response to gaps in services to Indigenous people, particularly to youths.

“We chose the name Rise Up because we believe in self-determination, and in Indigenous people supporting Indigenous people,” says Launa, pointing out their health service delivery models differ from the mainstream. “The Indigenous view of good health encompasses the four parts of the medicine wheel – spiritual, mental, emotional and physical.” 

Barriers the women identified include reliable access to food, connection to the land and community, and culture.

“It is also important to say we focus on reserve and on urban because if you’re separated from your home community, it is more difficult to access services,” says Sherrelle. “It is important to fill that gap on and off reserve.” 

A strong proponent of empowering Indigenous women, Tara says Shuswap Coffee Company buys only organic, Fair Trade Café Feminino coffee, which supports Indigenous women in Central and South America and Rwanda. 

The coffee program is a one-of-a-kind ethical sourcing model committed to ending the cycle of poverty affecting women coffee farmers throughout the world.

Tara says the program creates a paper trail that informs her that Café Feminino women are getting paid fairly, and program executives visit the sites to make sure.

“Women in these countries have nothing, and if we can help them, we can establish libraries, early education centres and renovated kitchens,” she says, noting empowering women is critical to a country’s stability. “If we can help women to be independent, to have their own income, educate their own children, daughters or sons, I think it’s a no brainer that we need to do.”

Through the Café Feminino co-operative movement, these women now have legal rights to the land. If their husbands die, the rights of the land go to the wife instead of the state as they once did. Now the women are leaders in the co-operatives, making critical financial and business decisions. 

Tara has donated a total of $4,000 to Shuswap community groups this year. She  became interested in supporting the local Indigenous community and reached out to the Tsuts’weye Entrepreneur and Innovation Network Project that supports women-owned or women-led enterprises in the Shuswap. 

As Project Manager of the organization that believes the effects of empowering one woman in a community can often be powerful and far-reaching, Carmen Massey was quick to connect Tara with Rise Up and, says Tara, “the fit was perfect.”

Much of Rise Up’s programming focuses on women because the organization  considers women to be the heart of the family.

Rise Up facilitates a variety of Indigenous day camps, on and off reserve, to both First Nation Bands as well as to community based organizations. Sessions on connections to nature through an Indigenous world view, social skill development, land stewardship and outdoor adventure activities are tailored to meet community needs

Mindfulness is an important feature of traditional Indigenous teaching as are drumming for wellness and forest or alpine bathing. Each session begins with smudging, a ceremony for purifying or cleansing the soul of negative thoughts of a person or place.

“Ours is a very holistic approach,” says Launa. “Do people have enough food, and how do we support that as well as mental and intellectual wellness? How do we provide further education and also spiritual support?”

Rise Up has been providing support for a couple of years but made it official on Dec. 8 2020.

“We’re in the early stages of making connections in the community and we have had other organizations reach out to us, so we are starting to grow,” says Launa. “And we would like to thank Shuswap Coffee Company for their support.”

A small specialty coffee roaster in Salmon Arm, Shuswap Coffee Company is proud to offer only Certified Organic Fair Trade coffee. They have made it their mandate to help to ensure the long-term health of both the coffee communities and the environment in which the coffee is grown. 

Also known as mountain coffee, it is planted at higher elevations and carefully hand picked. Several varieties are available in most local grocery stores.

To contact Rise Up, send an email to indigenousriseup@gmail.com.