Matching gift supports scholarships and Guatemalan villagers

Former UALR Vice Chancellor Bill Walker and his wife, Sherry, have “brewed” up a wonderful opportunity for scholarship funding by supporting a local coffee business that also improves the lives of Guatemalan villagers.  For every bag of Leiva’s Coffee sold during the fall semester through the Office of Alumni and Development, the Walkers are providing $10 to the Annual Fund for UALR, up to $2,500.

A special website through the Office of Alumni and Development will be available on Sept. 1 for those interested in purchasing the coffee online, but walk-in purchases are available now at the Bailey and Friends Alumni Center for $18.95.

The Walkers are providing the match after being inspired by the story of Leiva’s Coffee, a family-owned business founded by local entrepreneur Geovanni Leiva and his extended family.  “After reading Geovanni’s story, we wanted to find a way to help his effort and support the UALR Alumni Association simultaneously,” said Sherry Walker.  The Walkers say their hope is to encourage others to support similar collaborations that help UALR. They are committed to a second phase of funding during Spring 2015 semester, and will match new sponsors for this effort or similar efforts at $250 per sponsor, up to $2,500.

Community engagement has always been a priority for Bill Walker, who was presented with an Honorary Distinguished Alumnus award in 2013. The award is presented to non-graduates who have had significant and positive impact through their professional or personal contributions to UALR and the community.

The origins of Leiva’s Coffee

Geovanni Leiva came to Arkansas with only rudimentary English-speaking skills, but much ambition.  Thanks to the generosity of a couple who met the Leiva family while on a mission trip to Guatemala, Geovanni graduated from UALR’s Intensive English Language Program in 1999 and eventually earned his computer programming degree from Pulaski Technical College.

Soon after, he met his wife, Alana, a UALR alumna who graduated in 2004 with a degree in Spanish. They had children and were living the American dream. But much as Geovanni enjoyed the security of his life, he felt called to do something to give others the same good life he said he had been blessed with.  He developed the idea of selling Guatemalan coffee directly to the public, ensuring that extra profits are poured into such things as flooring and fresh water wells for Guatemalan villagers, medicine for the elderly and education for the young.

In December, those who have supported the matching gift program for Leiva’s coffee will be invited to hear Geovanni speak about his time at UALR, how each coffee purchase has directly supported villages in Guatemala, and the economic impact in his family’s community.



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