Monday, June 26, 2017

More Than Coffee:  Kunjani Project To Bring Aid to Africa

kunjani coffee shop

“naplesBy Marve Ann Alaimo, mysweetnsavorylife@gmail.com

Stephanie Bunnett may be living in Naples now, but thoughts of her native Zimbabwe are never far away.  Nearly ten years ago, Bunnett came to the U.S. with her family to escape the country’s growing unrest.  Yet, the realities of life for those living in the home of her childhood still stay with her.  Bunnett, now 25, and her mother are proprietors of the wildly popular Naples coffee house, Kunjani.  But her heart remains firmly planted in her African roots.

Last month, Kunjani celebrated its one-year anniversary.  The eclectic coffee house serves a variety of coffees, lattes, mochas, pastries and other sweet treats.   Among Kunjani’s specialties is “camping coffee” which is sweetened with condensed milk just as it is prepared in Africa.

But Kunjani’s offerings are not just of the food and beverage variety.  The space also serves as a cozy meeting place and African art gallery.

Appointed with colorful carvings, beautifully woven textiles and expertly drawn images, Kunjani has become a popular location for Neapolitan residents, business professionals and seasonal visitors.  The unique décor and seating arrangements have much to do with Kunjani’s appeal.

While baristas craft coffee orders, customers can take in the many items displayed throughout the gallery space.  Kunjani features a wide array of artisan crafts, all imported from Africa through fair trade practices.

kunjani coffee shopIdentified with the help of family and friends in Africa, Bunnett’s suppliers are craftspeople who themselves share her aesthetic and ideals.   Bunnett purchases goods outright, paying for them upfront, so it has immediate impact in the rural communities from which some of the artisans hail.

“All of our pieces have a story behind them.  My aunt in Zambia, she recently sent us these bags.   Those are all made by orphans with recycled materials.”

But for Bunnett, Kunjani is not just a business.  It is a means to bring awareness to the plight of those still living in Zimbabwe and its neighboring countries.   When Bunnett and her mother opened Kunjani, Bunnett also laid the foundation for a charitable endeavor to bring much needed aid to those living on the other side of the world.

“When we started, we always wanted to do a three pronged approach.  Coffee shop, gallery and then a non-profit.”

Now with one year firmly under her belt, Bunnett has moved forward to complete the last of her three pronged plan.  Through her new non-profit organization, the “Kunjani Project”, Bunnett is raising funds to provide much needed infrastructure to the impoverished people of her native land.

This year, Kunjani will be hosting special events and gallery sales and collecting donations.  Bunnett’s initial project will be aimed at the scarcity of clean water access in Zimbabwe.

kunjani coffee shopBut Bunnett’s plans are different from other non-profits who claim to address the same issues.   “In Africa, we’ve seen that the corruption is really bad.  People send money and hope that it reaches where they want it to go.  But it doesn’t.”

Bunnett will not only use donations to fund the building of water wells and boreholes.  “I don’t just want to put a well in and then leave.”  Once adequate funds are raised, she hopes to travel to Zimbabwe to personally participate in constructing the wells and developing plans for future maintenance of the wells.

While there, Bunnett will document the endeavors with photos and videos that she will share with donors and Kunjani’s customers.  Bunnett is hopeful that Neapolitans will be inspired to support her efforts and perhaps join her on future trips.

“I want to be able to take it a step further and not only help people back there but also to give people here a different perspective.  We’re so lucky to have this store because people come to us for other reasons and then hear about our story and want to be involved.”

To learn about the Kunjani Project, go to www.kunjaninaples.com or visit Kunjani at 780 Seagate Drive in Naples.  Kunjani is open Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Sunday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.


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