The rainy season awakens leeches that antagonize the tea pickers.
When Sarah Ray met Donavan Kennedy in the fall of 2003, at the Briargate-area California Pizza Kitchen, her first thought was that Kennedy should be dating her sister. His blue eyes beamed behind thick glasses, his smile came big and easy, and his chattiness quickly revealed a compassionate character.
Ray, then 22 and tall with blond-streaked brown hair, and Kennedy, 20, were in server training together. Which is a perfectly logical starting spot for a game of matchmaker. Less so a staging ground in the fight against systemic developing-world poverty.
But over the next few years, Ray and Kennedy would funnel tip money into big dreams. Informed by international travels separately and together, the two developed a fair-trade business plan, launched Yobel Market in Colorado Springs, and created Yobel International, all with the aim of combating problems as complex and overwhelming as human trafficking. Come 2012, they found themselves leading nearly a hundred volunteers locally and running a training of their own — teaching impoverished people in Uganda business skills.
A year later, a Yobel team returned to the East African country to gather results. According to a survey of 46 of the previous year’s 59 students, 37 percent had started businesses and used profits to establish community micro-lending programs. Fifteen families had started savings plans, and the same number had sent children to school for the first time.
The pair was dumbfounded. Fueled by work and idealism, their “sideline thing” had grown into a full-time job, but that was the least of it.
It was working. They were changing the lives of people, even communities.
Today, Ray and Kennedy regularly organize worldview-shattering workshops in North America, Central America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. On Yobel’s Exposure Trips, volunteers from Colorado Springs and elsewhere pay to live among the world’s poorest people, teaching business skills and ethics.
India is one of 15 countries with whom they partner, but one that contributes 30 percent of the goods in their market under the Colorado Avenue bridge. In early January, Yobel volunteers ventured again to that complicated and often confounding landscape, this time with a new business-development curriculum, a four-day crash course meant to impart the means for people to help themselves, save themselves, through craft and commerce.