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Ben Firn, Wesleyan Campus Director

At the end of a brutal Wednesday, crammed with a calculus exam, soccer practice, and over 50 pages of reading, I met up with fellow Wesleyan Campus Director, Chris Law, and headed over to my first SHFC meeting. SHFC, which stands for Shining Hope for Communities, is a student-run group devoted to raising money for a school and community health center located in a slum in Nairobi, Kenya. The slum is called Kibera, and it is one of the largest in Africa.

Equipped with a few sample bars, brochures, nutrition packs (RUTF) and a charming smile, I introduced 2 Degrees to the forty or so students. The empty bar wrappers and receptive faces said it all. SCHFC members had devoured the product, along with our social mission, and eagerly pledged to support 2 Degrees. Chris and I were grinning uncontrollably. Kennedy Odede, a 26 year-old Wesleyan junior and co-founder of Shining Hope, invited us to join his group’s fundraiser at Brew Bakers Cafe! I gave Chris a fist-pump as we exited the building. Game on…

My alarm clock jarred me awake at 6 a.m on the Saturday of the fundraiser. I felt like the only person on campus. Matt Gregory, the Specialty Sales Director of 2 Degrees, had driven up from NYC to help me promote 2 Degrees at Brew Bakers Café. When we first arrived, the scene didn’t look too promising. Despite owner Eloise Tencher’s flexibility and generosity, our small table at the rear of the café, upon which we displayed sample bars, brochures and photos from the company’s recent trip to Malawi, wasn’t going to attract many customers. Even the bags and bracelets made by Kenyan HIV positive women weren’t getting any attention. But our luck turned around as soon as Kennedy nonchalantly ambled in…

And then it seemed that children, students and locals all stormed the café. Next thing I knew, the line was out the door. Recognizing our cue, Matt and I began chatting up customers, offering free sample bars and spreading the 2 Degrees mission. Bars flew off the shelves! We were on fire….

Kennedy Odede and Ben Firn at the SHOFCO fundraiser

When the lunch crowd started to simmer down, a few customers meandered back to our booth to express their gratitude for our product. One man, a Middleton resident in his early 30’s, chatted enthusiastically with me about how great our company’s mission is. He thanked us for transcending the line between profit and non-profit organizations.

ZZZZZZRU! A piercing electric impulse jolted through my brain as I realized that I had learned more about my own company than any customer had today. 2 Degrees enables middle class citizens in Connecticut (but it could have been anywhere) to demonstrate altruism without having to donate sums of money to charity. Although I had preached this point hundreds of times to retailers and friends, I had never actually seen it at work. I experienced the power of the 2 Degrees’ mission more through this man than I had in any conference call, meeting or sales pitch so far. I felt a surge of confidence that the success here at the Brew Bakers fundraiser could be indicative of much larger achievements to come throughout the country, and maybe even the world.

3 Responses to Ben Firn, Wesleyan Campus Director

  1. Karencadenhead says: 

    Another great writer in the family…I felt like I was there with you Ben..feeling just as excited.

  2. Eloise Tencher says: 

    You guys have done an amazing job. The bars are flying out the doors of BREW BAKERS, and I just ordered some more. The fundraiser was a great time and as you say, nobody had to give tons of money to charity. Collectively we all contributed to SHOFCO. Whenever you are ready for another one, let me know. This is a great venue and a lot of fun. You guys are great, dedicated people.

  3. bloutius says: 

    bravo chaps.

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