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Bernie Koesters: Making an Impact Locally and Globally

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By Ariane Kjellquist

From rehabbing a 100+ year old house in Portugal and installing smokeless stoves in Guatemala, to teaching woodworking to “street kids” in Bolivia and building Habitat homes here in Asheville, Bernie Koesters (pictured above with his wife Sue) is driven by the belief that “we need to give back, especially those of us that have more. We have an obligation to give back.”

Sue shares the same sentiment. She went back to school to get a nursing degree with the desire to work in under-served rural communities. It was that desire that took the couple to Bolivia for a 7-month stint. In addition to teaching street kids there woodworking skills, Bernie designed and built safety guards for existing equipment and helped refurbish used tools purchased with a grant.

When you hear Bernie talk about the work he does with Habitat and other non-profits, you might assume, as I did, that he is a retired engineer. Many Habitat volunteers are. Instead, his upbringing is what taught this retired CPA the skills he uses to give back. Raised one of seven on a farm in Ohio, he and his siblings learned to repair and rebuild farm equipment in the off-season. “We didn’t have a lot of money, so we needed to make things last.”

A seasoned Habitat for Humanity Global Village trip participant (in fact, he and Sue were just in Guatemala this month), Bernie has seen first-hand the impact that safe, decent and affordable housing has on families globally and locally.

“What I saw making the biggest impact on families in Guatemala was water filters and smokeless stoves. The stoves free families from respiratory illness and they see a healthier future for themselves and their kids.”

Habitat for Humanity Guatemala reports that 52% of Guatemalans have respiratory illness and 95% of water is contaminated. Asheville Habitat staffer and Global Village trip leader Joel Johnson added, “The cost of a smokeless stove is only $100 USD, but it will change the lives of Guatemalan women and children dramatically. Most have severe respiratory illness because they are not cooking or heating with proper ventilation.” A water filter costs a mere $35, makes water potable and significantly reduces water-borne illness.

Excited by the prospect of a healthier future and per the Habitat model, Guatemalan homeowners contribute “sweat equity”. This primarily happens before out-of-town work teams arrive. Using pre-made forms, families press adobe blocks that the volunteers later use to build smokeless stoves.

team at dinner in guatemala

“I really enjoy meeting people and realizing that no matter where you are, others are just like us– just trying to make it, day in and day out. Everyone is just trying to move to a level that is about more than just surviving; into a different position of living.”

Bernie also mentioned another highlight: lunch with the mothers and children (fathers are usually off working). “Language never seems to be a barrier. A lot can be communicated with hand signals, a friendly face or a smile.”

DYK? Asheville Habitat has been “following our tithe” to Guatemala for many years now and we are one of 77 Habitat affiliates engaged in the Global Village program.

 

 

 

 

 

Warm Up With Some Fair Trade Coffee

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Did you know that the Asheville Habitat ReStore sells Guatemalan roast coffee from Dynamite Roasting Co.? By the bag and the cup! Find it in the bookstore area of the store, on the upper floor.

Proceeds from the sale of this coffee go to Habitat for Humanity Guatemala for the installation of Healthy Home Kits (smokeless stoves, sanitary latrines, and water filters) in the homes of Guatemalan coffee farmers. “Selling coffee that directly helps ensure Guatemalan coffee farmers have a decent and healthy home, brings our work full circle,” said Scott Stetson, ReStore General Manager.

“Our farmer friends work so hard to provide us with coffee crops of exceptional quality. When they and their families are healthy, communities grow stronger in their region- and in ours. A healthy farmer makes the world healthier in countless ways. This partnership between Dynamite Roasting Co. and Habitat for Humanity is direct action with immediate results. We are thrilled to put this positive plan into motion,” said Josh Gibbs, co-owner Dynamite Roasting Co.

Makenzie Brown, Habitat Guatemala Donor Relations Officer added, “We are grateful for our partnership with Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity. It is because of such support that we are able to work alongside Guatemalan families, and together, improve their quality of life. Today, 46% of Guatemalans use an inadequate latrine or no sanitary services at all, 95% of the water in Guatemala is contaminated, and 52% of Guatemalans suffer from respiratory disease. It is our hope that with each Healthy Home Kit, a family will make a small change that will have a big impact in their home.”

Proceeds from the ReStore have been supporting Asheville Habitat’s building programs since 1990, when the resale shop (then known as the Habitat Home Store) first opened its doors on Biltmore Avenue. Supporting a sister affiliate in Guatemala through the sale of coffee, is another way the ReStore supports Habitat’s vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live.

Learn more about Habitat Guatemala’s Healthy Home Kits.

Learn more about Dynamite Roasting Co.

 

Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity Partners with Dynamite Roasting Co. to Ensure More Healthy Homes

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The Habitat ReStore will soon be selling Guatemalan roast coffee from Dynamite Roasting Co. – by the cup and the bag. Other area retailers will also sell the bagged coffee, which will be available in mid-late November, just in time for holiday gift giving.

Proceeds from the sale of this coffee will go to Habitat for Humanity Guatemala for the installation of Healthy Home Kits (smokeless stoves, sanitary latrines, and water filters) in the homes of Guatemalan coffee farmers. “Selling coffee that directly helps ensure Guatemalan coffee farmers have a decent and healthy home, brings our work full circle,” said Scott Stetson, ReStore General Manager.

“Our farmer friends work so hard to provide us with coffee crops of exceptional quality. When they and their families are healthy, communities grow stronger in their region- and in ours. A healthy farmer makes the world healthier in countless ways. This partnership between Dynamite Roasting Co. and Habitat for Humanity is direct action with immediate results. We are thrilled to put this positive plan into motion,” said Josh Gibbs, co-owner Dynamite Roasting Co.

Speaking of Guatemala, a team of 12 Asheville Habitat volunteers are leaving for Guatemala this weekend (October 21, 2017) to help install Healthy Home Kits. To support this endeavor, the ReStore’s “Register Round Up” program is being directed to Habitat Guatemala during the month of October. Customers can choose to “round up” their purchase to the nearest dollar. Fashor example, if your purchase totals $9.60, you can round up to $10 and the 40 cents will be donated. “Its small change that adds up and makes a big impact,” said Asheville Habitat staffer and trip leader, Joel Johnson. “For example, the cost of a smokeless stove is only $100 USD, but it will change the lives of Guatemalan women and children dramatically. Most have severe respiratory illness because they are not cooking or heating with proper ventilation.”

Makenzie Brown, Habitat Guatemala Donor Relations Officer added, “We are grateful for our partnership with Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity. It is because of such support that we are able to work alongside Guatemalan families, and together, improve their quality of life. Today, 46% of Guatemalans use an inadequate latrine or no sanitary services at all, 95% of the water in Guatemala is contaminated, and 52% of Guatemalans suffer from respiratory disease. It is our hope that with each Healthy Home Kit, a family will make a small change that will have a big impact in their home.”

Proceeds from the ReStore have been supporting Asheville Habitat’s building programs since 1990, when the resale shop (then known as the Habitat Home Store) first opened its doors on Biltmore Avenue. Supporting a sister affiliate in Guatemala through the sale of coffee, is another way the ReStore supports Habitat’s vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live.

Learn more about Habitat Guatemala’s Healthy Home Kits.

Learn more about Dynamite Roasting Co.