In EW’s column Act With Me, stars share their personal stories about giving back. This week, Hugh Jackman speaks about his Laughing Man Foundation, which gives profits back from the sale of Laughing Man coffee to farmers in a Colombian co-op.
WHY HE TOOK ACTION
Inspired by Paul Newman and his Newman’s Own business, Hugh Jackman was looking to create a “social business” and use his fame to further the common good. While working with another charity, World Vision, Jackman visited Ethiopia to learn the ins and outs of fair-trade coffee. He worked in the fields with a farmer named Dukale for a day, which opened his eyes to the back-breaking work and challenging lives of coffee farmers. This experience led Jackman to combine his passion for coffee culture with entrepreneurship. “Our basic tenet is one of a hand up, rather than a handout,” he says.
WHAT THE ORGANIZATION DOES
Jackman personally gives back 100% of his profits from the sale of Laughing Man Coffee to the foundation, bolstered by other profits as well. The profits go to a co-op of coffee farmers in Huila, Colombia. The co-op, not the foundation, determines how they allocate the funds, but Jackman specifies they stressed wanting everything from education to health to infrastructure to be covered. “We have said that we would like it to be multi-pronged, so any way we can help raise up the community,” he says. “However we can help that community grow and be sustainable, that’s what we want to do.” Projects have included paying for kids to go to college and funding irrigation systems, new kitchen floors, and more. “We strongly feel at Laughing Man, this is not our official blurb, but what we always say is all be happy,” adds Jackman. “Every aspect of our business should be making everyone happy. Including the people who grow [the coffee].”
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT
Jackman has visited the community his foundation supports in Colombia and seen the impact of their work firsthand, from mended roofs to irrigation systems. “I went down there to sit in kitchens with people who are so proud of just the tiling on the floor. To go to farms and see really intricate and obviously expensive irrigation systems, that makes all the difference,” he says. More than anything though, Jackman is proudest of the college scholarships they’ve been able to provide. “What touches me more than anything is when I meet the parents. Because I’m a parent. So, I know what it means to have an opportunity for your kids. It’s way more important to the parent than any opportunity you get personally. I went in this one house, and this father just embraced me,” he remembers. “And it had nothing to do with anything I’ve ever done as an actor. He hugged me with the gratitude of a father giving an opportunity to their kid. We put 100 kids through college. That is so gratifying and heartening.”
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Buy Laughing Man Coffee, which is now available in recyclable Keurig pods (the first of its kind in the U.S.). “It’s a win for the environment, it’s a win for you as the coffee drinker, and it’s a win for the growers,” Jackman says.