News Local

Strangers get a venti-sized connection

By Eric MacKenzie

Cup For You, a project led by five SFU students, encourages people to buy coffee for a stranger as a way to foster new social connections. 
Submitted

Cup For You, a project led by five SFU students, encourages people to buy coffee for a stranger as a way to foster new social connections. Submitted

Buying coffee for a stranger may only be a couple bucks out of your pocket, but a group of Simon Fraser University students are showing that it can be an investment in a personal connection.

Cup For You began as an assignment for five SFU business students in a project management class that borrows from the idea of “paying it forward” — but adds an element of social interaction.

Participants are encouraged to purchase a beverage for the person behind them in line at a coffee shop as a springboard to conversation. They are then supposed to share a photo with their new acquaintance using a #cupforyou hashtag.

Peter Duan, one of the students involved in launching the initiative, said Cup For You is an excellent way to break down barriers between strangers through an act of generosity.

“All Vancouver people, we are really kind. It’s just that the social atmosphere is kind of cold, so it makes people hide their kindness,” said Duan. “But Cup For You is an opportunity for those people who want to express their kindness and make the social atmosphere warmer.”

Having partnered with a dozen coffee shops in downtown Vancouver, Richmond and on the SFU campus, Duan and his team members have been spreading the idea around to positive response — particularly from individuals who are approached with an offer for free coffee.

“People love it,” he said. “In the first two days I did that, I had people wanting to write appreciation letters to my teacher.”

Duan’s group has been posting “Cup For You stories” on their Facebook page, sharing a photo and what they took away from their new coffee buddy. They’ve also been trying a different approach to the idea through the Cup For You Challenge — providing the hot drinks on campus for other SFU students and asking them to gather the courage to approach a passing stranger to chat over a cup.

Duan, 20, said younger people seem more reluctant to participate in the idea, but he’s hopeful more folks warm to the initiative during Thursday’s final Cup For You Challenge, when they’ll be serving up David’s Tea. Duan said the idea is to continue on with Cup For You even after their class assignment ends later this month.

Visit www.cupforyou.org for full project details.