Coffee shop helps in a job 'Well Done'

Red Rock employees contribute in effort to bring well water to African villagers

While in Africa with a Christian missionary-aid organization, Josh To found it harder than expected to safely distribute malaria pills.

Few of the villages he visited, in rural Ghana, had access to clean drinking water, said To, who is now a Google employee.

"They would take these pills down with muddy water," he said. "That brought the issue of water to life for us."

Four years later, To has partnered with Red Rock, the downtown coffee house (itself run by a Christian group) which has done its own charity work in Africa over the years.

Red Rock has served mainly as a staging area for a project To launched through his nonprofit, Brute Labs. The project, dubbed "Well Done," raises money to dig new, clean wells in rural Ghana where they're needed most.

Getting materials to these villages is hard, and it costs $8,000 to build a well. But in the last two years, To said, Well Done has funded six wells in areas which he describes as largely "unreachable."

As a result, "We are able to provide water to people who have no other way of getting it," he said.

Well Done launched its campaign at Red Rock, and its posters are prominently displayed there. Cafe employees have been helping the nonprofit by selling T-shirts and taking donations, and by now the coffee shop, To said, has helped raise a few thousand dollars.

Red Rock is also planning to give a free cup of coffee later this summer in exchange for a $10 donation to Well Done. Meanwhile, To said, the coffee shop employees "have been crucial in connecting us with artists and scientists."

Steve Joh of Red Rock said Well Done's mission is "consistent with the vision" of the coffee shop.

"We want to provide a common space for people to do good things," Joh said.

For more information about Well Done, visit For more on the ways Red Rock is working to help, visit

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3 people like this
Posted by Bernie Brightman
a resident of North Whisman
on Jul 17, 2009 at 2:34 pm

Be wary of these Christian-based aid organizations in Africa. As documented in the book Dark Star Safari, many of them provide their help only to those willing to espouse (or at least pretend to espouse) whatever beliefs the organization insists on. Moreover a lot of money ends up being spent on the comfort of the aid providers themselves. I don't know what the case is here, but it appears that a lot of these organizations are more concerned with proselytizing than they are with truly providing aid.

3 people like this
Posted by Jim
a resident of another community
on Jul 17, 2009 at 8:29 pm

Bernie, we appreciate your input and respect your opinion on the matter. I'm actually one of the individuals who started Well Done with Josh To, and can attest that our partner organization, Pioneers-Africa, is certainly not the type of organization that you mention. In fact, several of the projects that have been implemented thus far are located in predominately Muslim communities, with absolutely no contingent requirement made for individuals to altar beliefs or cultural traditions in order for the well to be drilled (that would be a tragedy in our eyes). And rest assured, not a cent of project funds went to the "comfort of the aid providers," neither to our partners at Pioneers-Africa (you'd only need spend 5 minutes with these individuals and witness the living conditions they endure to be convinced of this) nor to ourselves (we work on an entirely volunteer basis and cover our own AND Pioneer's administrative costs completely out of pocket, such that 100% of donor funds can go directly towards the projects).

In contrast, our partnership with Pioneers-Africa on project Well Done has actually worked out wonderfully for us, not so much because they are a Christian organization, but rather that they are a local organization, indigenous to the specific locale in which our projects are being implemented. While Well Done is not a religiously affiliated organization, we recognize it is commonly (and sometimes only) such organizations that are intimately working in the most remote, deprived regions of the developing world and maintain the relationships with the village leaders, organizations, and governmental agencies involved that are critical in seeing such an undertaking through. Some may choose to bemoan and criticize this fact; we've chosen to embrace and make the most of it. Our partners at Pioneers-Africa are individuals who sleep, eat, work, and live alongside the communities of concern and dedicate their entire lives to their wellbeing, not only in the form of preaching a belief, but just as fervently by establishing medical clinics, building schools, and advocating for community rights before the government regardless of acceptance of a belief or creed. We embrace partnerships with such organizations, so long as it means most effectively and sustainably bringing clean water to the people who need it most.

Hopefully this better explains where we're coming from and helps allay some of your fears regarding our specific effort...


3 people like this
Posted by Thomas
a resident of another community
on Jul 18, 2009 at 12:54 pm

Thank you for highlighting the humanitarian work being done through RedRock Cafe in your community. I am also glad a healthy discussion ensued in your comments section as a result. It is always easy to use broad brush strokes in criticizing legitimate humanitarian work done in underprivileged nations. When people serve selflessly, often those who are the beneficiaries of such work might inquire about motivations, and if genuine motivations are expressed, that is not "proselytizing". Christian work done in several countries has brought genuine relief and help. In India for instance there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of school, colleges, and hospitals set up over many decades that have contributed greatly to nation. It may not even be a stretch to say India would not be where it is today had it not been for Christian work. There are hundreds of instances of such humanitarian work all over the world. Father Damien went to Molokai to treat lepers and himself died of leprosy at the age of 49. David Livingstone the famed explorer and medical missionary led the way for significant humanitarian work being done in Africa. Eric Liddell, the Olympic gold medalist and subject of the movie 'Chariots of Fire' later went to China as a missionary rather than reap the benefits of fame and fortune - and there are hundreds of others.

3 people like this
Posted by Ellen
a resident of North Whisman
on Jul 19, 2009 at 6:31 am

I love RedRock and go there frequently. I was glad to read up more on this campaign and how RedRock is using their business for a good cause.

3 people like this
Posted by Steve Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 20, 2009 at 9:58 pm

I served as a Peace Corps teacher in West Africa several decades ago and also managed to travel through Ghana. Potable water supplies are a concern throughout the developing world. Any program such as this is important and can make a valuable contribution to life and health in these areas (I boiled my water on US supplied kerosine stove). Thanks to the Voice for publishing this story of our local positive connections to the less fortunate parts of the world.

3 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of another community
on Jul 21, 2009 at 4:09 pm

From Jim: "...not only in the form of preaching a belief..." and from the Pioneers-Africa website: "Who we are:
Pioneers-Africa is an autonomous and indigenous, African Missions agency committed to evangelizing the unreached people groups in Africa and beyond." says it all. I'm not against missions to third world countries, I just prefer the giving coming from one's self and one's own belief; not with the intent of pushing one's faith onto someone else. If through your example, locals asks you where your strength and faith in humanity comes from, by all means share your belief with them. I just have a problem with carrots being dangled in front of the starving with the pay-off being "salvation". Lead by example and good things will come of it, whether it results in conversion or not.

3 people like this
Posted by Martha
a resident of Jackson Park
on Jul 24, 2009 at 8:09 pm

More micro-projects like this -- tangible and practical relief work -- need to be done. Well done, Well Done!

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