Subject: KY: Groups aiding homeless, E. Timor farmers provide fair trade coffee


Saturday January 20, 6:57 PM

LEAD: Groups aiding homeless, E. Timor farmers provide fair trade coffee

(Kyodo) _ (EDS: UPDATING)

Japanese nonprofit organizations supporting the Tokyo homeless and East Timor farmers jointly held an event Saturday at a civic center in the capital's Shinjuku Ward to provide a new blend of East Timorese fair trade coffee roasted by former homeless people.

The homeless support group, Moyai, the Pacific Asia Resources Center, a civic group helping coffee farmers in East Timor, and several other groups organized the Coffee and Art Festa in Shinjuku partly as a means of presenting the problems of poverty at home and abroad as linked.

As Moyai has begun selling the fair trade coffee for 700 yen per 200 grams on a trial basis, group leader Tsuyoshi Inaba, 37, expressed hope that the sales will in the future provide people working in the project with a source of income.

"We have been working hard to provide you with tasty coffee," a project member who was previously homeless after a bar he had run went bankrupt told the audience.

More than 100 people gathered to hear lectures by members of the groups on poverty at home and in East Timor.

Shoko Uchida, a senior member of PARC, said her group is working to help coffee farmers in East Timor, which became independent from Indonesia in May 2002, become economically independent through fair trade and technical assistance. She said the state of poverty and other difficulties in the new country have hardly been reported abroad since independence.

PARC's local staff members in East Timor have visited Japan and were surprised to see there are homeless people in such a rich country, she said.

Makoto Yuasa, another senior Moyai member, told the audience that the use of the word "disparities" in Japan has helped to conceal the facts about poverty in Japan. "We often hear questions about what is bad about social disparities but you cannot say what is bad about poverty," he said.

Moyai decided to produce an original blend of fair trade coffee to provide coffee that would benefit overseas farmers, as it has offered coffee at the Salon de Cafe Komorebi.

Moyai has operated the cafe every Saturday for two years to provide former homeless people and their supporters with a place to gather and chat.

Inaba set up Moyai five years ago after years of support activities for the homeless in the Shinjuku area. He expressed hope that the new coffee blend will in the future provide a source of income for Japanese people who have struggled out of homelessness.

As part of Sunday's event, British artist Geoff Read showed a drawing of his depicting the history of struggling people in East Timor and Tokyo on a sheet of paper about 1 meter high and 4 meters wide.

The middle of the drawing shows hands from both sides meeting and shaking, with a cup of coffee above them.

Read, 48, expressed the hope that Moyai's coffee project will lead to "real fair trade between people." He has produced numerous portraits of homeless people in Britain and Japan.

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