Refuge Coffee is changing lives

A man leaning out of the front window of a coffee truck - refugee coffee
Photo courtesy of Daily Coffee News

Refuge Coffee changes the lives of refugees by giving them job training and paid work. It also gives the residents of Clarkston, Georgia, the chance to meet their new neighbors. 

According to a recent survey, more Americans than ever drink coffee. In fact, 64 percent of the country drinks at least a cup a day. These figures may seem surprising but coffee is the most popular beverage in the world. Coffee is a uniting force. Coffee shops are a popular places to interact, meet, and engage with others. It is common to come across several coffee shops on just one street. One coffee shop in Clarkston, Georgia stands out above others.

Some would describe Refuge Coffee on Ponce de Leon avenue as a “refugee coffee shop.” In some sense, that’s true. Refuge Coffee does employee refugees. However, Refuge Coffee’s impact goes beyond just hiring refugees.

It was established as a way of introducing the local community to their new refugee neighbors.

Kitti Murray founded Refuge Coffee to foster refugee engagement with the community.  Refuge Coffee Co. is a non-profit organization that empowers refugees through work. Refugee Coffee employs and trains refugees, they also help them establish networks in their new home.  

Refuge Coffee has a year-long, full-time program.

In the program, which pays refugees a living wage, refugees can learn English. They also attend a business mentorship classes and training on entrepreneurship. The job training helps refugees become baristas, but doesn’t stop there. It teaches them basics of hospitality, coffee, food safety and other skills.

“We believe in the resilience of our refugee neighbors. We see incredible strength in our barista/trainees. Our goal is to join in the task of empowering our refugee friends to use their many gifts to help us create refuge,” states the Refugee Coffee company website.

In addition to the coffee shop, Refuge Coffee also runs an online store, a catering business, and a coffee truck. The coffee truck and catering company operate in the greater Atlanta area.  For Americans who don’t know any refugees, it’s a chance to explore the rich culture all around them. Refugees working in the coffee shop have the opportunity to engage with their neighbors and feel welcomed.

Results have been positive. The owners report seeing friendships made over a cup of coffee and an engaging conversation. The community has been appreciative of this chance to interact with others different than themselves. The coffee shop couldn’t have come to a better place, either.

Clarkston has been a refugee settlement area for an entire generation. It’s even referred to as “the most diverse square mile in America.”

Refuge Coffee shows how a simple act can change the lives of so many. Refugees often arrive in a new country with few or no networks. In addition, their career experience and education may not be relevant in their host country. Refuge Coffee makes a difference by creating a training program that targets these issues. They also create a space for all kinds of people to come together over their daily cup of Joe.

Refugees shaking hands

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About Akudo McGee
Akudo McGee is a recent graduate from the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. McGee has a Masters degree in European studies. Her field of focus is forced migration.