One of Sudan’s Lost Boys Finds a Way to Help Other Refugees

A cup of coffee is a good way for many to start the day. But it can also do far greater good. Manyang Kher, a former Sudanese child refugee – one of the so-called Lost Boys and now a US citizen – is passionate about helping refugees build a brighter future. And he does it with coffee. VOA’s June Soh talked with the founder of a social enterprise, 734 coffee. VOA’s Carol Pearson narrates her report.



Former Sudanese Lost Boy Finds a Way to Help Others

Manyang Kher was three years old when he arrived at a refugee camp in Ethiopia’s Gambella region. During the 13 years, the South Sudanese native lived there, he observed lots of other children die. From hunger. From cholera. From attempting to flee the camp.

“You fear every day because you may die, too,” Kher says.

Kher is one of the so-called Lost Boys of Sudan, some 20,000 Sudanese children who escaped when their villages were attacked during the 1980’s civil war and made the 1600 kilometer-walk to Ethiopia.

Deeply affected by the camp, he has named his coffee company, 734 Coffee, after the geographical coordinates of the Gambella region: 7˚N 34˚E. Part of his larger humanitarian non profit project, Humanity Helping Sudan, 734 helps the 200,000 South Sudanese refugees still in the region.

“I know these people,” Kher says. “I speak the language; I know the struggles those refugees face every day.”

Kher is dedicating 80% of his coffee proceeds to helping them. “A cup of 734 coffee can buy; this cup can buy, one fishing net.” A fishing net is a dollar. It is also a tool that can help a refugee achieve self-sufficiency.

Kher’s aim is to help refugees help themselves. He wants them to be aid-free. 

“That’s why we give fishing nets because they can go to the river and fish for themselves. If you build more community gardens they can grow their own food. If you also build water wells, now you create a community because they can get the water there they can grow their own food there. They can also open their own market there. 200,000 refugees is a market.”

Delicious coffee

At age 16, Kher came to the U.S. as an unaccompanied minor refugee. While he was in college in Richmond, Virginia studying international law, he started Humanity Helping Sudan to raise awareness of the refugees. Now, the group has programs, including 734 Coffee, to help empower the displaced to become self-sufficient.

Kher operates 734 Coffee out of two warehouses in Virginia, but the coffee comes from a co-op of African owned and operated farms in the Gambella region. It is roasted by local, independent coffee roasters in the U.S.

He launched the company last year, selling coffee online, at events and to coffee shops. 

Megan Murphy who owns a bakery outside of Washington, serves 734 to her customers at Capital City Confectionery.

“The customers love it,” she says. “Whenever they find out about the project, about the mission, they connect right with it. The coffee tastes delicious, so it’s a win-win on both sides. You get to enjoy coffee (and) at the same time be part of the bigger project.”

Following the sun

When Kher’s South Sudanese village was attacked and burned in the early 1980’s, he was separated from his parents, who he never saw again. He and other orphaned children followed the sun. 

“Most people in my village believe that where the sun rises up, there is peace…The children go there and they just keep going.”

Kher and the others chased the sun to the refugee camp, a horrific journey. 

“Thousands of boys lost their lives to hunger, dehydration, and exhaustion. Some were attacked and killed by wild animals; others drowned crossing rivers and many were caught in the crossfire of fighting forces,” the International Rescue Committee says on its website.

“Too many children died along the way,” Kher summarizes.

But as he looks around his coffee warehouse, he seems to make some sense of it. “I never imagined I would be in a position to help anyone,” he says.



Bloomberg Donating $4.5 Million to Support Paris Climate Accord

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Sunday he is giving $4.5 million to the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat to cover a U.S. government funding gap for the international Paris climate accord.

Bloomberg’s charitable foundation said the money will support work developing countries are doing to achieve their targets under the agreement as well as “promoting climate action” among cities and businesses.

The 2015 treaty signed by more than 200 nations and entities vowed to curb carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions in order to try to limit global temperature rise.

Former President Barack Obama’s administration was among the signatories, but President Donald Trump said he would pull out of the agreement. Trump campaigned as a booster of fossil fuels and a skeptic of climate change science, and said the Paris accord would cause U.S. businesses to lose millions of jobs.

“This agreement is less about the climate and more about other countries gaining a financial advantage over the United States,” Trump said last year.

Bloomberg made a similar payment last year and pledged to continue the contributions. He told CBS News in an interview broadcast Sunday that Trump is capable of changing his position.

“But he should change his mind and say, look, there really is a problem here, America is part of the problem, America is a big part of the solution, and we should go in and help the world stop a potential disaster,” Bloomberg said.

The United States is among the world’s top emitters of carbon dioxide.

But in late March, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that because of the actions of businesses and local authorities, the U.S. “might be able to meet the commitments made in Paris as a country.” 

Guterres appointed Bloomberg as his special envoy for climate action in March. Guterres tweeted Sunday thanking Bloomberg “for his generous support to the United Nations but also for his global leadership on climate action.”

Last year was the third warmest year on record. Scientists increasingly see evidence of climate change in heat waves, storms and other extreme weather.



World Bank Shareholders Back $13 billion Capital Increase

The World Bank’s shareholders on Saturday endorsed a $13 billion paid-in capital increase that will boost China’s shareholding but bring lending reforms that will raise borrowing costs for higher-middle-income countries, including China.

The multilateral lender said the plan would allow it to lift the group’s overall lending to nearly $80 billion in fiscal 2019 from about $59 billion last year and to an average of about $100 billion annually through 2030.

“We have more than doubled the capacity of the World Bank Group,” the institution’s president, Jim Yong Kim, told reporters during the International Monetary Fund and World Bank spring meetings in Washington. “It’s a huge vote of confidence, but the expectations are enormous.”

The hard-fought capital hike, initially resisted by the Trump administration, will add $7.5 billion paid-in capital for the World Bank’s main concessional lending arm, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

Its commercial-terms lender, the International Finance Corp, will get $5.5 billion paid-in capital, and IBRD also will get a $52.6 billion increase in callable capital.

Lending rules

The bank agreed to change IBRD’s lending rules to charge higher rates for developing countries with higher incomes, to discourage them from excessive borrowing.

IBRD previously had charged similar rates for all borrowers, and U.S. Treasury officials had complained that it was lending too much to China and other bigger emerging markets.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said earlier Saturday that he supported the capital hike because of the reforms that it included. The last World Bank capital increase came in 2010.

Cost controls

The current hike comes with cost controls and salary restrictions that will hold World Bank compensation to “a little below average” for the financial sector, Kim said.

He added that there was nothing specific in the agreement that targeted a China lending reduction, but he said lending to China was expected to gradually decline.

In 2015, China founded the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and lends heavily to developing countries through its government export banks.

The agreement will lift China’s shareholding in IBRD to 6.01 percent from 4.68 percent, while the U.S. share would dip slightly to 16.77 percent from 16.89 percent. Washington will still keep its veto power over IBRD and IFC decisions.

Kim said the increase was expected to become fully effective by the time the World Bank’s new fiscal year starts July 1. Countries will have up to eight years to pay for the capital increase.

The U.S. contribution is subject to approval by Congress.



EU, Mexico Reach New Free Trade Deal

The European Union and Mexico reached an agreement Saturday on a new free trade deal, a coup for both parties in the face of increased protectionism from the United States under President Donald Trump.

Since its plans for a trade alliance with the United States were frozen after Trump’s election victory, the EU has focused instead on trying to champion open markets and seal accords with other like-minded countries.

The agreement in principle with Mexico follows a deal struck last year with Japan and comes ahead of talks next week with the Mercosur bloc of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.

“With this agreement, Mexico joins Canada, Japan and Singapore in the growing list of partners willing to work with the EU in defending open, fair and rules-based trade,” said European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

For Mexico, a deal with the EU is part of a strategy to reduce its reliance on the United States, the destination of 80 percent of its exports. That has become more urgent, given Trump’s push to rewrite the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The EU and Mexico wanted to update a trade deal agreed to 21 years ago that largely covers industrial goods. The new deal adds farm products, more services, investment and government procurement, and include provisions on labor and environmental standards and fighting corruption.

The European Commission said that, under the deal struck Saturday, practically all trade in goods with Mexico will be duty-free, including for farm products such as Mexican chicken and asparagus and European dairy produce.

The deal will for example cut Mexican tariffs of up to 20 percent on cheeses such as gorgonzola and increase EU pork exports, the Commission said. 

It will also allow Mexican companies to bid for government contracts in Europe and EU companies for those in Mexico, including at the state level.

Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said both sides had achieved a major update of their original accord.

“It needed to be more ambitious in the agricultural sector, it needed to be more ambitious in services, it needed to be more ambitious in many of the elements that in the end we managed to agree on after two years of work,” he said.

Guajardo said the deal would grant his country better access for products including orange juice, tuna, asparagus, honey, egg white albumin, as well as “equitable access” for meat products.

It is also set to recognize “geographical indications” for certain food and drink, a key EU demand.

Such indications protect agricultural produce, for example, dictating that the term “champagne” can only be used for sparkling wine from northern France.

It was not clear, however, how the divisive issue of “manchego” cheese had been settled. The EU says the term should only apply to sheep’s milk cheese from central Spain, but Mexico has its own “manchego” made from cow’s milk.

Negotiators from both sides will continue to work on technical details to produce a final text by the end of the year.