New York Times Highlights Abyssinian Fund

Above: The Rev. Nicholas S. Richards, head of the Abyssinian
Fund, an NGO that is financing the training of farmers working
to produce higher-quality products. Photo: The New York Times

Harlem Helps Raise Coffee in Ethiopia
Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Tuesday, July 27, 2010

New York (Tadias) – The New York Times highlights one of the latest projects by members of Harlem’s legendary Abyssinian Baptist Church: the Abyssinian Fund, the only nongovernmental organization by an African-American church operating in Ethiopia.

The NGO was officially launched last December at an event held at the elegant Harlem Stage, which was attended by a diverse group of people, including local politicians, business leaders, and diplomats.

According to NYT, the young organization has already hit the ground running. “It will soon be joining forces with a co-op of 700 coffee farmers in the ancient Ethiopian city of Harrar, with a mission to improve the quality of the farmers’ lives by helping them improve the quality of their coffee beans,” the newspaper reports. “The Abyssinian Fund will pay for specialized training and equipment to help the co-op’s farmers produce a higher-quality product so they can be more competitive on the international coffee market. Once their income has increased, part of what they make will then be set aside in a fund to support local development projects, like much-needed roads, schools or clinics.”

According Reverend Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III, the church’s current pastor – who made a brief introductory remark at the fund’s launch VIP reception in December 2009 – the project was born out of the group’s historic trip to Ethiopia three years ago. Reverend Butts, who led over 150 delegates to Ethiopia as part of the church’s bicentennial celebration and in honor of the Ethiopian Millennium, told the crowd that the journey rekindled a long but dormant relationship that was last sealed in 1954 with an exquisite Ethiopian cross, a gift from the late Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie to African-Americans as a symbol of love and gratitude for their support and friendship during Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia. The cross has since become the official symbol of the church.

“The Abyssinian Fund is inspired by the pilgrimage taken by The Abyssinian Baptist Church to Ethiopia in 2007, “said Rev. Richards in an email after last year’s event. “We saw the biggest enemy Ethiopia faces is poverty, so on our arrival back in the USA, we dedicated our energy and love for Ethiopia to establish an organization dedicated to creating and supporting sustainable development.”

“The mission of the Abyssinian Fund is to reduce poverty in Ethiopia by increasing the capacity of farming cooperatives and by developing programs for the wider community, which will lead to sustainable improvements in health care, education and access to clean water, Rev. Richards said. “I strongly believe in the success of our goal to develop Ethiopia, one community at a time.”

According to the church’s official history, in 1808, after refusing to participate in segregated worship services in lower Manhattan, a group of free African Americans and Ethiopian sea merchants formed their own church on Worth Street, naming it the Abyssinian Baptist Church in honor of Abyssinia, the former name of Ethiopia.

Related from Tadias Magazine:
Harlem’s Legendary Church Launches Abyssinian Fund

Slideshow: See photos from the launch event in harlem:

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