Austin Smith

Jonathan George | #Coffee4ED

Austin Smith
Jonathan George | #Coffee4ED
Story: Holly Martin    Photos:  Drew White 

Story: Holly Martin    Photos:  Drew White 

Since Jonathan George and his crew, the Brew Tang Clan, started fundraising two years ago with #Coffee4Ed, they’ve raised over $10,000. They’ve got T-shirts and a mission. This year, they got their own space.

All proceeds of their student-run coffee shop at Piedmont Middle School are donated to Equitas, a Charlotte-based nonprofit dedicated to providing education in Malawi.

The group has garnered donations from local roasters Enderly Coffee, Parliament, and Counter Culture, along with pastries from Sunflour Bakery and filtered water from Diamond Springs. A variety of companies have donated equipment, and the project has begun to receive attention of local media outlets like Wilson’s World.

In addition to #Coffee4Ed, the group completes #PiedmontWalk4Ed, a five-mile fundraiser walk from Park Road Shopping Center to their school in Plaza Midwood, raising awareness for how far children in rural Malawi walk to school each day.

Charlottean Steve Cook, a human rights activist, photographer and filmmaker, founded Equitas in 2007. Shortly after, he and George became friends.

As a result of this friendship, George and his wife Kayla went to Malawi to direct a youth sports program in 2009-2010. When they returned, they knew they wanted to continue to help.

George decided to combine his love for teaching, coffee, and social enterprise to help educate students and fundraise to break the cycle of poverty in Malawi. Modeling social enterprise is the objective of #Coffee4Ed. Rather than focusing inward, students are inspired to focus on what benefits others.

The crew has plans to start serving pop-ups at local events and markets.

“My main thing to pass on to them is finding something they’re passionate about to make the world better,” he says. “If it’s coffee, great. If it’s something else, great. My challenge is that they’ll do what they love to do and use that to make social change.”

Equitas is raising $300,000 to build a school in Malawi so students will have accessible education in their own village. Without it, George says, “They’ll miss half a year during the rainy season. They miss kindergarten or they’re behind. They end up becoming subsistence farmers.”

Yamilet, an eighth-grade student, is a Brew Tang Clan member.

“My favorite part is seeing the changes happen in Malawi,” she says, adding, “I love the bragging rights. I can make a really good cup of coffee! You should come try it!”