July Collaboration: Kula Project
Sarah Buchanan, Co-Founder and Executive Director of The Kula Project.
There is no doubt this BOLD, BRAVE inspirational women IS changing the world. Sarah has set out on a mission to eliminate poverty for future generations by equipping one billion farmers. Her passion drove her to learn new things and make it happen. We chose the word ABLE because it was such a clear theme in Sarah's story. She could help, so she did.
A little Q & A with this months inspirational gal.
What should we know about Sarah? Give us the run down.
I'm from Atlanta and I still live in Atlanta. It has always been home. I live with my incredible partner James and our Golden Retriever, Nelson. I used to have a much longer answer for what I did when I wasn’t working, but when you start a business, especially one that doesn’t make money on purpose, you don’t have as much non-work time. When I’m in the States, I’m actually at home as much as I can be. I have the priviledge of traveling a lot, so when I’m in Atlanta, I like to be with my family. I have a twin sister that started a ridiculously awesome jewelry company, Ashley Buchanan Jewelry. My little brother is a pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies, so that’s amazing.
When did you start Kula?
I started Kula in May of 2012. We just just celebrated our third birthday, so that’s very exciting. Sometimes it seems like we started yesterday, and sometimes it seems like we started ten years ago.
What does Kula mean?
Kula is the Sanskrit work for “A Community of Heart.”
Why did starting Kula matter to you?
Most people think I grew up on a farm or have always had a passion for it, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I started Kula after working in Kenya and seeing how many children went lifetimes without an education, and I wanted to change that. The more and more I spoke with women, the more I realized that the success of their family was directly correlated to the success of their family farm, a farm that is on an acre or less, smaller than a football field. I thought, if I want to help give these children a chance, the most sustainable way to do that was empower their parents to do it on their own.
How is Kula creating positive change?
Our program creates generational change. Coffee trees will produce an income for our families for more than 30 years, and every single one of our farmers is in our program to be able to send their children to school, so we will likely not see the full extent of our impact in our lifetime, which is pretty remarkable.
What have you learned about yourself through this process?
I’m not sure I’m even the same person as I was when I started Kula. I have been completely broken throughout this entire process, in so many ways, and I think working in Africa has a lot to do with it. Africa has the power to change you, to break you to your barest parts and then rebuild you in the most beautiful way. You will never be the same, and you quickly realize that you didn't choose Africa, Africa chose you. I'm more myself when I'm there than anywhere else in the world. Africa gives you the freedom to love in the most extraordinary way, and you are loved back simply and sincerely, and it's the loveliest of all things. I’ve learned that I have much more fight in me than I thought, and that is directly related to the relationships I’ve been able to build in East Africa.
How have you, or are you overcoming (struggles, insecurities, ext..)
It’s all a process. To me, the most important thing has been to learn to live in the middle of the highs and lows. In this work, you will have days that are beyond your wildest dreams. You will look up at the sunset on the Kenya plains or the Rwandan mountains and wonder how on Earth you get to do this. Then, you will have days that you will wonder how on Earth you got yourself into this mess. Learning how to not get too high and not get too low will help you stay emotionally strong, but it’s a tough lesson to learn.
If they turned your story into a movie, what would you want viewers to take from it?
I would want people to know that loving people matters. I’ve been advised multiple times that relationships with our families aren't as important as fundraising or building partnerships, and I 100% disagree. First of all, if you are building something that is going to affect someone else, they should have a say in it, but mostly, they want to love you and they want to know you, to welcome you into their homes. Loving them matters. If you let yourself be broken by the pain and suffering in the world, you open yourself up to the most extraordinary and sincere love that exists, and you get to make a difference at the same. I think that by being broken, you are the one who gets to rebuild the brokenness in others. It’s painful, sure, but it is so so worth it.
One of my favorite poems sums it all up pretty perfectly.