Swap your cup of java to spread hope and help to children with Type 1 Diabetes in Ethiopia

I want to help these kids gain access to the type of care, help, and support that I have been blessed to receive throughout my journey with diabetes. Just because they on the other side of the world, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t get quality medical care.

High School Student
Silicon Valley, California, USA

¬†you could trade your daily cup of coffee to help make a child’s life better, would you?

My name is Marina, I’m a high school student living in Northern California and I have Type 1 Diabetes (T1D). After trip to Ethiopia, in December 2018, to visit some of my father’s relatives (he was born in Ethiopia) and bring supplies to children living with Type 1 Diabetes, I decided to make it my mission to do more. I started the Kaffa Exchange project so I could help people in Ethiopia with T1D, like me, but who don’t have the same resources available to them.

I decided on the name the Kaffa Exchange, because coffee originated in the Kaffa Region of Ethiopia and I wanted to make it easy for people to help out by exchanging the money they might spend on a coffee ($5) to help pay for life saving medical supplies and diabetes education. My hope was to make it easy for anyone to participate in the effort; and with enough people, real impact could be made.

As I mentioned above, Ethiopia is where my Dad was born, so I feel a special connection with the people there. Having seen firsthand the obstacles kids and adults with T1D have to overcome, I gained a new appreciation for all the resources I have access to here in the United States. I’ve been fortunate to live in an area of the world where care is much easier to get in addition to being blessed with parents who have helped and supported me on my T1D journey. Most importantly, our visit to Ethiopia gave me an intense desire to help others less fortunate.

Mahatma Ghandi said, Be the change you want to see in the world, and I am going to try. Because I understand this disease, I can give people in Ethiopia with type 1 diabetes the voice they never had! I want to bring awareness to the world about what they desperately need to live better, healthier lives with less risk of long-term complications.

Prior to our trip, my Mom and I collected donated diabetes supplies for a pediatric endocrinology clinic in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Even though we brought thousands of dollars’ worth of life saving supplies, it was obvious that it was really only a drop in the bucket compared to what patients with diabetes in Ethiopia really need.

Since our trip, I’ve learned from global diabetes experts the area where a lay-person like me, can have the most impact is diabetes education. Living with diabetes is equal parts science and art or finesse. The art part of living with diabetes, is acquired from diabetes education classes, seminars, guest speakers and belonging to the diabetic community. My family and I have learned so much from others who have traveled this road before us and by getting involved in the incredible diabetic community in the San Francisco Bay Area.

With this in mind, and with the help of many generous family, friends and strangers, the Kaffa Exchange has arranged three more deliveries of life saving supplies and raised over $7,000 to pay for the printing of an Amharic (official language of Ethiopia) translation of Dr. Santosh Gupta’s book, Living the Sweet Life with Diabetes. Our endocrinologist contacts in Ethiopia have said ‘this book will be transformative for their patients, by giving them access to simple medically approved strategies to help them achieve better blood sugar outcomes. With better outcomes, diabetes related complications can be reduced or postponed, increasing quality of life. In some small way, our goal at the Kaffa Exchange is to contribute to making these positive outcomes a reality.

UPDATE: The Amharic translation of Living the Sweet Life with Diabetes, by Santosh Gupta is complete, but we are waiting for COVID-19 restrictions to pass before our local contacts in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, can send it to be printed so they can in turn distribute books directly to patients. Every penny that has been raised will go to this effort. Here are some pictures of the dedication I wrote for the translated books:

The Kaffa Exchange is pending 501(c)(3) approval – coming soon!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Type 1 Diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes (T1D), once known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin. Insulin is a hormone needed to allow sugar (glucose) to enter cells to produce energy. Different factors, including genetics and some viruses, may contribute to type 1 diabetes. Although type 1 diabetes usually appears during childhood or adolescence, it can develop in adults. Despite active research, type 1 diabetes has no cure. Treatment focuses on managing blood sugar levels with insulin, diet and lifestyle to prevent complications. (www.mayoclinic.org)

How is living with Type 1 Diabetes different in Ethiopia?

Type 1 Diabetes is a challenging disease to have in the United States, but even more challenging in the developing world. Supplies are expensive and scarce. Specialized diabetes education is needed to help patients learn how to safely store their insulin without refrigeration, understand how native foods will affect their blood sugar and what decisions need to be made with the information provided by glucometers. Studies show that additional test strips and proper implementation of diabetes education programs in the developing world can improve average blood sugars and significantly reduce diabetes related complications.

What is The Kaffa Exchange?

I picked the name The Kaffa Exchange for our fund raising effort because (1) coffee originated in the Kaffa Region of Ethiopia and (2) I wanted to make it really easy for people to participate by exchanging what they might spend on a cup of coffee. If enough people contribute $5, we can really help bring hope to children and adults with diabetes in Ethiopia, by delivering access to more supplies and diabetes education. The Kaffa Exchange is my way of being the change I want to see in the world!

Thank You to our Donors!


Jo Healey

July 26, 2022

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Victoria Tyra

July 26, 2022

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Julie Morris

October 4, 2021

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Bruce Buckingham

April 25, 2021

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Tekleberhan Raesu

October 4, 2020

Hello Marina this is Hyab Hagos' uncle I live in bay area. Hyab told me a lot about you and I am so proud of you.

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Debra Cohen

August 6, 2020

Marina and her mother, Bonnie, will make a tremendous impact on the lives of Type 1 diabetics in Ethiopia and elsewhere, now and in the future. Fabulous work, you two!

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Ayla Kanow

June 10, 2020

Marina, you do amazing things and I am beyond impressed with everything you do! I love you and I am so proud to call you my friend. Keep changing the world!!

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Anonymous User


May 14, 2020

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Eileen Mougeot

March 22, 2020

I go to Ambo every year. I was supposed to be there right now but had to cancel! Would love to talk sometime!

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Caroline Chan

March 21, 2020

Keep up the good work!

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Julie Morris

March 16, 2020

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Cory Esters

March 8, 2020

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