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Rwandan Genocide Survivor Runs Coffee Company in Vancouver

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In an unassuming cafe tucked away in an industrial area of ​​East Vancouver, sacks of Rawandan Farm coffee beans that Nadine Umutoni remembers from her childhood are hand-roasted and prepared for sale.

The survivor of the genocide that struck Rwanda in 1994 still struggles to talk about what she considered an eight-year-old girl, but Umutoni hopes her fledgling online business will make enough money for others to get the help they need.

“Part of it is going to help them get mental health and trauma therapy,” the owner of Neza Coffee said.

“Survival was daily, hourly, so it’s really hard for me to sit here and tell you exactly how we survived.”

Most of his family did not. But Umutoni’s mother sent her to the neighbor to hide. There, the child had to pretend to be Hutu, not Tutsi, to survive.

“I was surrounded by children, old people with machetes, stones, guns, all ready to kill me,” Umutoni said.

The brave neighbor saved her life by telling the armed militia members that Umutoni was her child and they should kill her first.

Now, decades later, the entrepreneur imports coffee from her family farm to sell in Canada. It is purchased under fair trade standards, which means it is expensive. A pound of roasted beans sells online for $22.

But certified Q-leveler Nelson Teskey — think of him like a cafe sommelier — says it’s worth it.

“This coffee is a score of 86, which is outstanding,” Teskey said.

The higher price also means that Umutoni’s family members who are still working on the farm at home, where conditions have improved dramatically, can earn a living doing what they love.