On Wednesday, Nov. 15, a University of Richmond alumnus will participate in the Steward School’s Bryan Innovation Lab Visiting Innovator Program. 

Manyang Reath Kher, UR '16, is a Sudanese refugee who founded the Humanity Helping Sudan Project (HHSP) and 734 Coffee.

The theme of this year’s program is “Grounds for Good: Changing Lives in Africa through the Coffee We Drink.”

At the program on Wednesday, Kher will visit classrooms, attend an afternoon Making, Tasting and Craft Fair, as well as speak at an evening presentation with Ger Duany, an HHSP team member who is also a Sudanese refugee.

Kher hopes to be able to tell the story of refugees and raise awareness about the problems in Sudan, he said.

“One of the reasons I started Humanity Helping Sudan in the first place was because I needed to tell the story of refugees so people can learn about these issues,” Kher said.

Cary Jamieson, director of the Bryan Innovation Lab, said that the biggest goal of the program was to bring more awareness and engagement to the community.

“We can feel isolated in Richmond, but there’s a whole world out there of people who have been displaced through the refugee crisis,” Jamieson said. “I hope we’ll be able to create empathy and the broader understanding that this is an issue that affects all of us.”

The mission of HHSP is to provide Sudanese refugees with the tools and knowledge necessary to achieve self-sufficiency. The project offers vocational programs and also raises funds for fishing and farming equipment, access to clean water and a community garden.

734 Coffee, which is named after the geographic coordinates of the region in Ethiopia where over 200,000 displaced South Sudanese citizens live in refugee camps, partly funds HHSP. The mission is to “make great coffee for the greater good," according to the company's website.

“I wanted to create a sustainable project because I wanted to give back more than money,” Kher said. “It was important to create an organization that would last. I care about business but, more importantly, I care about helping people."

Kher said that his time at UR helped him get to where he is today.

“I made a lot of good friends while I was at UR, and some of those people are going to be at the event on Wednesday,” he said. “I’ve learned that a lot of business is about relationships and knowing people."

Jamieson commended both Kher and Duany for their efforts, especially considering their difficult pasts. 

“Even though they have suffered and their countries have suffered, as adults they have come up with wonderful ways to give back to the community and to help empower refugees,” Jamieson said.

The event is free and open to the public, although advance registration is required.

“I wish people would realize they don’t have to wait to change the world," Jamieson said. "There is so much possibility out there, and people need to feel empowered to make a difference. I hope this program helps to accomplish that.”

Contact news writer Claire Mendelson at claire.mendelson@richmond.edu. 

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