COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: For more than half of his time as a Brooklynite, Bay Ridge resident Roland Dib has been pleasing the palates of locals with his organic, fair-trade coffee while at the same time giving children in Central America and the Caribbean access to books.
While the two labors of love may seem a strange mix, Dib says that his sense of adventure sparked the idea to start importing coffee and using the proceeds to fund mobile libraries for children in Guatemala, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
“More than 15 years ago, I started an organization called Giving for Living [and] that runs mobile libraries in Latin America,” said Dib. “The idea of kids borrowing books and taking them like we have here is not an everyday idea [for them]. Kids [there] do not have access to books to take home.”
Dib explained that the vans drive into small neighborhoods and children wait in line to borrow books and return them the next week.
“To support the program, I started importing organic, fair-trade coffee from those neighborhoods where we do our work,” added Dib. “This is when I created the Giving Coffee brand. For every coffee bag we sell, we donate a book to a child, and supermarkets are lining up behind the cause and giving us space in their markets to sample the coffee and talk about what we’re doing.”
Participating markets include the Ridge’s own Foodtown on 91st and Third and The Brooklyn Market on Third between 81st and 82nd.
MOTIVATION: “Many years ago, I grew up in a fairly lower middle class income family,” said Dib of what ultimately spurred him to start his organization. “I love adventure traveling, and you start seeing the contrast between a Latin American country and the difference here. After being in touch with the locals, [I learned] what makes a permanent change in these people’s lives is education. Giving these kids books and educating them on what people do in other parts of the world really elevates their dreams and expands their horizons. It’s really very rewarding work.”
CAREER/DAY JOB: Alongside commitments to his organization, Dib has also spent the past 20 years as a real estate developer in Brooklyn.
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “My present challenge is really trying to get the supermarkets or grocery stores to buy my story and give me a chance to be on their shelves,” said Dib. “People will buy the coffee because they believe in the cause.”
BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT: In terms of achievements with his organization, Dib says that running a non-profit is a challenge in itself, so “every day that goes by and the program is still running is an achievement.”
PERSONAL LIFE: If it weren’t for his favorite hobby, traveling, his thriving organization might not be in place today, giving hundreds of children access to books.
“Travelling is my only hobby,” said Dib. “That’s how it led to Giving for Living.”