As a teenager growing up in north London, I liked things to be instant – waiting was not a word or experience I was comfortable with.

Once I had set my heart on something, I wanted it – yesterday! It was the 1970s and 80s, the time of the Pot Noodle, Loadsamoney, Kwik Fit, and the birth of the coffee advert soap opera – for a blend perhaps not quite as golden as the advert implied.

I wasn’t a coffee geek then, but I was significantly influenced by the culture; an instant world that was often:

- rushed: where speed was king
- unsustainable: where wasteful practices were ignored
- substandard: where quantity was valued over quality
- tiring: where overwork became the norm

The not-for-profit sector, in which I live and breathe, has sometimes been criticised for taking on this quick-fit culture; promising instant results for very little money. We live in a world that is crying out for solutions to the questions and crises of our age. ‘How can I be a good dad?’, and ‘how can we care for the thousands of children who have no dad?’ are just two questions often on my mind. I know that there are no quick fixes.

In Kampala, 85% of children in institutionalised care have at least one biological parent alive. Viva’s partner network is bringing together 22 children’s homes to seek safe and sustainable ways to bring children back home.


The process is not instant – it takes time; with the crucial link in the process involving highly skilled caregivers. Their efforts have an immediate and long term impact on the child through their engagement with the whole family and wider community. The results are not instant either, but they are significant:

- 136 children were placed back home safely within the first two years.
- 400 more are expected to be reintegrated during the second phase of the programme.

This type of work is not instant – it’s artisan; just like the coffee I now drink. As a novice barista I love taking the time to blend and brew coffee that I know has been sustainably sourced and adds economic and social value to the community. I also grind my own beans, tamp, brew, stretch and heat the milk to a perfect temperature, consistency and sweetness – and then enjoy the creativity in free-pouring latte art.

Perhaps surprisingly I also drink less coffee as I take time to savour the taste and enjoy sharing the experience with friends. I still don’t like waiting.

But I have learned that an artisan life is definitely worth cultivating – with the results having a lasting value far beyond the next espresso macchiato.

Martin Thomas

This article first appeared in the May/June 2014 issue of Sorted magazine and is republished here with their permission. Subscribe to receive Sorted magazine directly to your door, six times a year, by clicking here.

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