Meet Iona, our coffee-obsessed community builder

We are excited to announce the newest creative and heart-led entrepreneur to join our team! Iona Fresnoza is passionate about communications for community building, and that's just one of the things she is doing at Groundswell.  Read Iona's story in her own words here, including how she is supporting indigenous coffee growers in the Philippines...

My Story

I was born in Tabuk, Kalinga Province - north of the Philippines, where my grandparents moved after the Second World War.  They had six children, my mother being the eldest daughter.  Among the many things I am grateful to my Mum and Dad for was their decision that I’d be born there.  We moved to the city for school, but I would spend most of my summers, Christmas, and my birthday in my hometown.  This made me appreciate the simplicity of life.  I remember picking cacao from our backyard, eating the seeds and letting them dry, and drinking fresh coconut water almost every day while there.  I will never forget sipping cups of brewed native coffee even as a child.  Home also meant having the whole town in our house for my birthday party, with a roast pig (the best and fattest one from my grandpa’s pig pen) every year - until I decided to avoid meat entirely (to my family’s disbelief).

A lover of stories, I did away with my initial thoughts of becoming a paediatrician - and instead studied Journalism at the University of the Philippines.  It turned out to be an experience more enriching than expected; it allowed me to not only ask people questions (the 5Ws and 1H) and look for news, but let me delve into other things like Philosophy for Children, Performance Poetry, Art Studies, Popular Literature, Elements of Dance, and other varying interests.

My broad list of curiosities has proven itself beneficial for my career, it turns out. Shying away from mainstream media, I turned to integrated communications and advocacy work. I developed communication programs for various organizations within the Philippine government and tourism-related establishments (a private island among them), IT, real estate, academia, and non-profits - one of which I helped establish and where I have been happily volunteering since 2005.

The organization is called CoffeeAID (Assistance for Indigenous Development), envisioned to help uplift the livelihood of indigenous coffee growers in the Philippines.  And because I was born in the region where great coffee is grown, this endeavour is close to my heart.  Every year, CoffeeAID takes volunteers working in the farms to plant, harvest, and process coffee - inviting people to experience the amazing coffee story.  

After backpacking for 40 days across Russia and Europe, I moved to Vancouver with my husband in the autumn of 2015 with an appetite for learning, growth, and a desire to bring a part of the Philippines here.

Alongside my work at Groundswell in communications and community building, the Groundswell program itself is helping me work at introducing fairly-traded, directly-sourced, organically grown heirloom Philippine coffee (from the CoffeeAID community, of course) to the coffee-crazed city of Vancouver.

The mission is to elevate Philippine coffee to specialty level and expand the market for sustainably sourced and fairly traded coffee; and my hope is that this would translate not only into an improvement in coffee quality, but to a better, more uplifted livelihood for the coffee farmers back home. Every cup has a story, one I'd love to share in a transformative and lasting way.

I am also passionate about communication for development,’ crafting strategic plans which build community and drive results, most especially for cause-oriented organizations like Groundswell!  It’s a privilege to be working with people who share solid core values and who are passionate about transformations - in changing things for the better; and to be in a community of action-oriented changemakers, inspiring individuals who are making this city (and their own organizations and circles) a better, more nurturing, inclusive, and safe place to grow.

Be in touch and come say "hi!" at the Cafe & Clubhouse...