Order up: coffee with a side of community inspires grad to give

James Gatiti

Learn more about the Master of Arts in Intercultural and International Communication

For questions or conversation about giving at Royal Roads, please contact our Advancement team.


For as long as James Gatiti can remember, his life has centered around two passions – coffee and community service.

For Gatiti, the son of third generation coffee farmers in Kenya, coffee isn’t just a family business. It’s a way to influence social change.

“The coffee business can be a win-win,” says the Master of Arts in Intercultural and International Communication alum. He co-founded Taste of Kenya, a direct trade coffee company that bypasses intermediaries, ensuring farmers receive fair compensation for their produce. Managed exclusively by his mother and sister now, Taste of Kenya exemplifies Gatiti’s mission to prioritize farmers’ livelihoods over profits.

“You don’t have to put profit over livelihood,” says Gatiti, who is now pursuing this mission through Elite Exim Limited, a global supply chain company he founded. “When you see that farmers are getting adequate value for their investment, it encourages me.”

But Gatiti's commitment to social change extends beyond coffee. 

Paying it forward 

The BCSPCA volunteer and former volunteer with both UNICEF and the World Health Organization has pledged his ongoing financial support towards the Development and Social Change Award, a scholarship he received as an RRU student. This award supports MAIIC program students dedicated to making positive impacts in their communities.

Motivated by his passion in advocating for global development and social change, Gatiti says he was moved to make an annual gift of $5,000 for three years because of the impact the award had on him during his studies.

“I know the importance of this award,” Gatiti says. “It really helped me at a crucial time.”

After relocating to Canada from Kenya for his studies, Gatiti didn’t encounter culture shock as much as sticker shock. 

“As much as I knew the cost of my tuition, it’s still not the same when you arrive here because everything changes — food, transportation, all that. Rent is not cheap in Victoria.”

Gatiti was awarded an entrance bursary and a Development and Social Change Award in recognition of his dedication to enhancing the livelihoods of smallholder Kenyan farmers.

“Having that buffer, I don’t think anyone understands how important it is,” he says, noting that the financial assistance allowed him to focus on his studies.

“I saw my grades starting to improve and that’s when I realized how important that was. If I didn’t get that award, I don’t know how things would have turned out.”

Investing in changemakers

Royal Roads Director of Advancement Rebecca Sharma says donors like Gatiti aren’t just funding education opportunities; they’re investing in our world’s changemakers.

"Donor support transforms a simple award into a catalyst for students to innovate, to lead and to make a tangible difference in our world," she says. "Now more than ever, we need to empower students with resources and opportunities so they can address the complex social and environmental issues facing our world today. James’ gift will no doubt help to do just that."

And that’s Gatiti’s hope, too.

“I’m a very strong supporter of people who commit to social change and development and some of their voices aren’t being heard. I hope that through this award, they know their impact is being felt.”

Moreover, Gatiti says he hopes sharing his story helps future donors see how their gifts can make a profound impact.

There’s always something you can give, he says. Gatiti calls it leaving a “footprint” behind wherever you go, whether that support is financial, educational or in kind.

“Royal Roads has given me so much. I really felt like I wanted to give back to the university. I hope other alumni are inspired to contribute. That’s what we do. We study this hard to be able to give back.”