MHP Makes a Cuppa Change to Habitat for Humanity Toronto’s Upcoming Build on Runnymede Road… and launches Cuppa Change’s First Local Development Project.

Morningside-High Park Presbyterian Church (MHP), in the heart of Toronto’s Swansea neighbourhood, is lending a helping hand to Habitat for Humanity Toronto’s upcoming build on nearby Runnymede Road.  MHP is fundraising for the project in various ways, including adding its Cuppa Change profits from September-December, 2013, to the effort.

To date, Cuppa Change has been focused on international projects.  The Habitat for Humanity Toronto project will be MHP’s, and Cuppa Change’s, first local development project.  And we’re so excited about it!

Between 2005 and 2008, through coffee sales and many generous donations, MHP raised $15,470 to build a schoolhouse in Kenya, through Free the Children.  MHP’s Cuppa Change program also paid for the schoolteacher’s salary for 2 years, built a latrine, and supported the school community with alternative income programs and health and immunization initiatives.

Since then, through Cuppa Change coffee sales and generous donations, MHP has raised over $8,000 for the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s extraordinary work on the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa.

Habitat for Humanity Toronto helps low-income families build and buy simple, decent quality affordable homes though a no-interest, no-profit mortgage, with payments set at less than 30 percent of gross income.  This solution not only helps to provide available housing for families in need, it enables low-income families to build assets, reduce their dependence on other forms of social assistance and break the cycle of poverty.

Habitat for Humanity Toronto’s project at 828 Runnymede Road will be a 2-story, detached home for a large family, and will break ground in Fall, 2013, with an aim for completion in Spring, 2014.  It will be the only single detached home built by Habitat Toronto in 2013/2014, and the charity’s first-ever Runnymede-area build.

We encourage the Swansea and Bloor West Village community – and anyone else who likes great fair trade coffee, tea, hot chocolate and chocolate bars from Alternative Grounds – to participate in Morningside-High Park Presbyterian Church’s Cuppa Change program.

Cuppa Change coffee can be ordered using MHP’s order form, available for download right on this site (scroll to the bottom of the webpage – the order forms are there).  It’s easy and fun, and you can feel great about participating in worthy local and international development projects, one cup at a time.


Bedford Park Does It Again!


As another school year kicks off this week, we’d like to welcome back Bedford Park Public School to the Cuppa Change family for its third year of fundraising.

In its first year, the Cuppa Change program at Bedford Park worked with the Me to We Club to raise $530.80 for its Free The Children Clean Water Initiative in only 12 weeks.  We had great involvement from parents, children and teachers alike, and the program was promoted at both the school fashion show and at the annual Spring Concert.

Although the 2012-13 school year was a little unusual with respect to school clubs, the Me to We club at Bedford was still able to raise $416.77 towards their clean water project.  The kids got involved by learning how to organize, package and deliver the coffee throughout the school and we had great parent involvement thanks to the organizational skills of parent volunteer, Megan Segsworth.  To date, Bedford Park has raised a total of $947.57 for its clean water project, something of which everyone can be very proud.  Way to go!

cleanwaterposterIn 2013-14, Bedford Park is looking forward to running a full year of Fair Trade coffee, tea and hot chocolate deliveries, promoting the program at more and different events throughout the school year, and challenging its students to make a real difference in the world.  We can’t wait to see what they accomplish!

The Art of Great Coffee

Bedford Park Public School just wrapped up its pilot Cuppa Change project, with impressive results.  We’ll announce those results here shortly, in an upcoming end-of-school-year blog.

The Bedford Park Me to We Club did a terrific job fundraising for its fresh-water well project through Free the Children.

Bedford Park’s parents, meanwhile, enjoyed being introduced to Alternative Grounds’ fair trade, freshly roasted coffee.  One parent, Ellen Hsiang, said that not only was it great coffee, the children’s backpacks came home smelling much nicer than before.  She liked the aroma so much, she sent us along a wonderful doodle:

We love it!

Thanks, Ellen – for supporting kids interested in social action, for helping Bedford Park build a fresh-water well, and for your illustration talents.  I not only smell great coffee, I smell a new Cuppa Change t-shirt coming on…

“Decisions Are Made By Those Who Show Up”

This past Monday, May 28, 2012, I attended Free the Children’s We Day launch at the Royal Ontario Museum’s Eaton Theatre.

I was invited by the teachers who run the Earl Grey Public School FTC social justice club.  Cuppa Change is currently coordinating a fair trade coffee initiative for Earl Grey to help raise money for one of the school’s social justice projects.  This year, Earl Grey’s FTC Club is trying to raise enough to pay for a teacher’s salary in an FTC school in Terre Cassée, Haiti.  During the 2010/2011 school year, Earl Grey’s FTC Club helped to earthquake-proof that school in Haiti, through fundraising done in part with Cuppa Change.  If you want to read more about that work, please click here.

It was an honour to attend this exclusive We Day launch event – Earl Grey was one of only 20 schools invited, all of which are very active in social justice projects through Free the Children.  Several people spoke at the event, including FTC co-founders Marc and Craig Kielburger, the Minister of Education, the Honourable Laurel Broten, and renowned actor Martin Sheen.







Oh – and singer Shawn Desman and two members of the band The Midway State also appeared.  Just sayin’.





Craig Kielburger announced that We Day will take place in eight cities this year, including:

  • We Day Toronto: September 28, 2012, Air Canada Centre (20,000 expected attendees)
  • We Day Vancouver: October 18, 2012, Rogers Arena (20,000 expected attendees)
  • We Day Alberta: October 24, 2012, Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary (18,000 expected attendees)
  • We Day Manitoba: October 30, 2012, MTS Centre in Winnipeg (18,000 expected attendees)
  • We Day Waterloo Region (generously supported by title sponsor, Research In Motion (RIM): November 14, 2012, Kitchener Memorial Auditorium Complex (6,000 expected attendees)
  • We Day Montreal: November 20, 2012, Theatre St Denis (2,000 expected attendees)
  • National We Day (taking place in Ottawa): April 29, 2013, Robert Guertin Arena (4,000 expected attendees)
  • We Day Halifax: Fall of 2013

This is great news for students across the country actively doing something to change the world, given you can only get a ticket for We Day by earning it through social justice work.

Craig also mentioned that, when he was 12 and had just started his fundraising work, he was told that “kids go to schools, they don’t build schools.”  Ha.  How wrong those naysayers were.

Martin Sheen participated in the We Day launch to support the work that Free the Children does – not to mention the excellent work of the enthusiastic crowd of student social justice activists.  Mr. Sheen told them that we are all responsible for each other – we make the rules that govern our behaviour.  He assured them that we are not asked to do great things, we’re asked to do things with great care.  And he encouraged them to find something worth fighting for, and become leaders of change – leaders, not followers.  He said that while “acting is what I do for a living, activism is what I do to stay alive.”

The Honourable Laurel Broten, Minister of Education, who also supports the social justice work done by the students in the crowd, reminded them of a wonderful line from Mr. Sheen’s excellent show, The West Wing: “Decisions are made by those who show up.”

I loved how many decision-makers there were in that theatre, both young and old.  It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said that “the ancestor to every action is a thought,” and I looked around me at the students who were not only thinking of changing the world – they were doing it, too.

So if you have thoughts about a great way to change the world for the better, show up.  Because it’s true – that’s how decisions are made.


Coffee grounds to grow

I came across a wonderful new organization, Back to the Roots this week. Back to the Roots is based on sustainability – they collect coffee grounds from local cafes and package the grounds with mushroom spawn (seeds) to sell to families, schools, community groups, etc to grow their very own food!

In 2011, the project was on par to collect and reuse 1 million pounds of coffee grounds. What a fantastic way to make use of existing materials to grow food for the planet. As they say, “sustainable is delicious.”

I’ll think twice about throwing out my coffee grounds.

Bedford Park Fashions a Cuppa Change Launch

Last night, Bedford Park Public School officially launched its Cuppa Change initiative at the school’s fashion show event.

ImageTeacher Janet Rix made opening remarks:

In her speech, Janet referenced the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s third annual Dare to Wear Love fashion show, which took place during Toronto Fashion Week on Friday, March 16, 2012.  Dare to Wear Love is an annual fashion gala and fundraiser challenging designers to create unique couture with just six yards of African cloth.  Bedford Park’s fashion show featured fabulous and imaginative student creations, including headwear made of real grass, and a fascinating hat worn by two students at the same time, sporting the Eiffel Tower and other architectural wonders of the world.


Janet Rix is also the head of Bedford Park’s Me to We Club, and the fashion show event was used as a platform to launch the Club’s Cuppa Change project to support a clean water initiative in Kenya.

ImageWe collaborated with Bedford Park’s Me to We Club and its Parent Council to present a Cuppa Change table at the fashion show, where we offered Cuppa Change coffee – as always, the wonderful, freshly roasted and organic fair trade offerings of Alternative Grounds.  We also made order forms available to parents, teachers and the community.  After a comedy of errors with our two coffee urns blowing one fuse (Bedford Park recently celebrated its centennial, so the building is just a little old), and then a second fuse, we finally got coffee brewing – and received many compliments from all concerned.

We also took the opportunity to make a small speech before the fashion show, wherein we introduced people to Cuppa Change, got them excited about the school’s clean water project in Kenya and, finally, reminded people to get in their forms by the deadline.  Finding an event where people can hear from your team directly is a great way to launch your Cuppa Change initiative.

In the coming weeks, we’ll report more on Bedford Park’s clean water project.  Until then,  bravo students, on both your fashion, and social justice, sense.

As we packed up for the night, I passed two signs in the hallway.  The first was on a door opposite the school office.  It read:

ImageWe are big fans of teamwork – that’s how things get done.

Next, I saw a poster drawn by a Bedford Park student:

ImageCuppa Change agrees.  Go forth – and… Be nice!  Do not be mean.

Welcome to Cuppa Change, Bedford Park

Welcome to Cuppa Change, Bedford Park Public School.  We are thrilled to have you, and to help you fundraise for a clean water project in Kenya.

Bedford Park PS is Cuppa Change’s first new school initiative of 2012.  Opened in 1911, Bedford Park was originally a four-room, two-storey school, with just 70 pupils registered in grades 1 to 4.  Now in its 101st year of operation, Bedford Park is a Junior Kindergarten to Grade 8 school.  It is also an Eco School and has a student Me to We Club.

Cuppa Change will be working with Bedford Park’s Me to We Club to bring Cuppa Change to the school’s families.

As always, Cuppa Change buys its fresh, organic fair trade coffee at wholesale prices from the wonderful folk at Alternative Grounds.  Starting this April, Bedford Park PS will sell coffee on a bi-weekly basis to its families, neighbours and staff at a small mark-up, keeping the coffee at competitive prices.  One hundred percent of the profits will support the school’s Free the Children safe drinking water initiative in Kenya.  The clean water component of FTC’s Adopt a Village model provides communities with localized clean water sources and also frees children of their daily treks to collect water so that they can attend school.

Here are a few facts about the urgent need for clean water around the world:

–  Water-borne illness is the second-highest cause of childhood death in the world.

–  Almost 1 billion people worldwide do not have access to safe water.

–  About 1.8 million children die every year by drinking contaminated water resulting in diseases that cause diarrhea. That means that every day, more than 5,000 children die of water-related diseases.

–  In the developing world, diarrhea is a leading cause of illness and death among infants and children.

–  Most water-related diseases can easily be prevented with simple interventions, such as pit latrines and hand washing with soap.

–  Many children around the world – particularly girls – are denied their right to education because their schools lack private and decent sanitation facilities.  Healthier children are more effective learners, and girls who spend less time fetching water have more time for school.

–  March 22, 2012 is the United Nations’ International World Water Day.  World Water Day is held annually on March 22 to focus attention on the importance of fresh water.  The day advocates for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. Check out to learn more about World Water Day.

– 80 % of illnesses in the developing world are linked to poor water and sanitation.

(Sources: Unicef, UN Water, Free The Children)

Bedford Park launches its first Cuppa Change initiative in April, 2012.  The deadline for getting your forms in is Thursday, April 5.

Order forms are available now at the school, or by downloading a form here on the Cuppa Change site.  Go to the bottom of our main page, or click on Projects – Bedford Park.

Thank you, Bedford Park, for your leadership supplying clean water to children in Kenya, and for changing lives, one cup at a time.

Let’s Follow Robin Mednick’s Lead and Do Something.

I just read a great article by Farah Mohamed in the February 27, 2012 Globe and Mail Life Section’s “Action Figure” column. It was a profile of Robin Mednick,  Co-Founder, President and Executive Director of Pencils for Kids (P4K).

Pencils for Kids  is a Canadian charity. Its goal is to make a difference in the world by providing every child the opportunity for an education. P4K does this by partnering with communities to create sustainable educational programs, resources and infrastructure.  In 2005, Ms. Mednick heard about a school in the village of Libore, Republic of Niger, where 30 school children had to share a single pencil.

That’s when she got going. Pencils For Kids has since raised $500,000, and has managed to send more than 6,000 kilograms of classroom supplies – yes, pencils included – overseas.

Read more here.

Ms. Mednick’s get-up-and-go is the kind of thing that gets me up and going.

Who wants to start a Cuppa Change project to support Pencils for Kids?

Contact us here at, and help get a new initiative started, so that thirty kids don’t have to share one pencil.  Let’s follow Robin Mednick’s lead and do something.

Degrassi’s Sam Earle Visits Earl Grey: “The Work You’re Doing Does Matter”

Degrassi’s Sam Earle, who plays K.C. Guthrie on Degrassi: The Next Generation, visited Earl Grey Senior Public School on Friday, February 24, 2012 to talk to the school about his participation in a Free the Children project, building a playground for an FTC school in Terre Cassée, Haiti.

In a wonderful confluence of events, this FTC school in Terre Cassée was the very same school that Earl Grey PS earthquake-proofed last year with funds raised in part by its Cuppa Change program, in part by other generous donations, and in part by earlier Earl Grey FTC clubs.  Sam, in fact, was one of the students who started the social justice club at Earl Grey Sr. PS when he was a student there himself.  He graduated from Earl Grey PS in 2007.

During Friday’s assembly, Sam showed a documentary made by Much TV that followed him and his Degrassi: the Next Generation co-stars on an FTC trip to Haiti to build the playground. You can see it here.

After Earl Grey’s students watched the documentary, Sam talked about his experience visiting Haiti.  He told the kids about driving from the airport through Port-Au-Prince, where, two years after the earthquake, there are still 100,000 people who have no homes and are forced to live in tents that must often house up to 12 people per tent.

Sam and his Degrassi co-stars worked on the Terre Cassée playground with the locals, learned how to carry water up a hill, and visited the nearby overcrowded health clinic.  Sam spoke of not only being deeply impressed by all the work that is going on in Terre Cassée, but also by the locals’ resilience.  They have been through so much, and yet they know there is much to be done, and are working for their future.

Sam told the Earl Grey audience of Grade 7s and 8s, “you helping in rural communities from the ground up is key.”  He told them not to feel intimidated to change the world.  Change happens with you and your friends.  “It starts with the room you’re in,” Sam said.  “If your friend has an idea [about how to effect social change], support it.”

Earl Grey’s FTC Club clearly agrees with Sam.  On the day of Sam’s visit, the club was throwing a “Hats Off For Haiti” event. For the low low cost of $1, participants could wear a hat in school for the whole day.  Earl Grey’s principal, Mr. Jahangir, wore a cool fedora.  Two of the school’s teachers, Ms. Deemac and Ms. Miller, also sported great hats.

One hundred and eighty dollars was raised in one day alone for Earl Grey’s efforts in Terre Cassée, Haiti.

Meanwhile, Cuppa Change’s program at Earl Grey continues full steam ahead.  Cuppa Change buys fair trade coffee, tea and hot chocolate from Alternative Grounds at wholesale prices.  The community at Earl Grey buys these goods at a small mark-up, and the school’s FTC Club uses the profit to support the Free the Children school in Terre Cassée, Haiti.  In this way, one school in one country is supporting another school in another country, and making a difference.

As Sam Earle told the assembly, “the work you’re doing does matter.”

Thanks for the visit to your alma mater, Sam, for your work starting the FTC Club at Earl Grey, for your inspiring words to the current FTC Club and, indeed, the whole student body.

The work you’re doing matters, too.


Ladies and Gentlemen… The Cuppa Change Song and Music Video

Ladies and Gentlemen, girls and boys, coffee lovers and music lovers, those wanting to participate and celebrate social change, we present to you The Cuppa Change song and music video.

As you’ve been reading in our past blogs, this project came about with the collaboration of many creative people, whom we thank deeply.  These are all people who want to change the world one cup at a time.  Please share the video with many, and let’s use it as a way to celebrate the social change we’re involved in right now – and to kick off the social change that we can bring about tomorrow.

And now, without further ado, The Cuppa Change Song and Music Video.

Here are the lyrics:

Cuppa Change
A song for Cuppa Change, composed by Celia Palli

With a drop of water you can start to make
Quite a cup of coffee that will change the way
You feel about life and boy I’ll tell you too
Making coffee’s all you’ll want to do
Taking sips and sips of this beverage
is all you really need to leverage
and now the world’s a better place to be
‘cause we made fair trade solid globally. 

Cuppa change, Cuppa change
Coffee’s never been so sweet
Cuppa change, Cuppa change
Grab a cup and I’ll pour change for you.

And let’s not forget the credits:

The Cuppa Change song:
Composed by Celia Palli
Sung by Celia Palli and Emmett Dunn
Guitar by Heather Crawford
Double Bass by Ben Miller

The Cuppa Change Video:
Directed by Arlene Hazzan Green
Produced by Claire Ross Dunn
Sound/Editing/Additional Camera by Shawn Hook-Carleton
Camera by Jake Vincent
Guitar playing on recording/Recording Engineer: Juan Valencia

With thanks to Free the Children, the Stephen Lewis Foundation and Alternative Grounds.

 If you’re interested in anything about this song, feel free to contact us at

Be the change!