Here's What Has Kept Ben Higgins Grounded Since 'The Bachelor'
By Lauren Zima
We know about former 'Bachelor' Ben Higgins' TV journey, but long before his time on the ABC show, he frequently journeyed to Honduras to help families there through Humanity and Hope United Foundation. Since his Bachelor stint, the 29-year-old has continued his work and even brought fellow show alumni with him on trips. ET spoke to the Generous Coffee co-founder about why this organization has his devotion.
ET: What was the catalyst for your involvement with Humanity and Hope United Foundation?
Ben Higgins: When I was 15, I went on a trip with my parents’ small group from their church. It was a missions trip, and the trip was set up where we’d go in these communities and pass out food boxes …. I saw poverty, hunger and thirst for the first time, and it started to rock my world ... These people from the United States would come down as these saviors, pass out boxes that people would beg and fight for, and then they would leave. It felt empty and pointless, in a sense. … Fast forward seven years, and after a lot of rejecting of not only the church, but also humanitarian efforts because of my experience in Honduras … the idea came up between my buddy, Riley Fuller, and I. He approached me with this idea that we could actually invest in communities in Latin America, not in terms of being the saviors, but to build relationships with them. Ask them what they need, what they want, what they dream of, and invest our time, money and efforts to build a sustainable change creating jobs and education. That fit everything I was looking for and took away the aspect of me being the savior, which I knew I never could be or would be.
What moment solidified for you that you wanted to devote your time to this cause long-term?
We implemented a clean water system in a community called La Coroza. I was sitting in one of the family’s houses and I asked them, "What’s been the biggest difference since you got clean water?" This 35-year-old woman looked at me, and was so honest and so vulnerable, and said, "For the first time in my life, I don’t have a stomachache." This was post-Bachelor, and actually on The Bachelor I had a parasite the whole time that was from Honduras. I was sicker than a dog and I lost about 25 pounds. I couldn’t keep anything inside me, I had a stomachache all the time that was excruciating. And I thought to myself, I can’t imagine someone living their life like this -- with constant pain, fever, diarrhea, headaches -- and the fact that through Humanity and Hope clean water was implemented into this community -- I want to continue to invest in that.
Fame can change people, and you obviously found fame with The Bachelor. Has this work kept you grounded?
My newfound purpose with Humanity and Hope has actually been through the show. My last call before I turned my phone over was to my buddy, Riley, and my buddy, Jordan -- they’re brothers, Jordan is the chairman of the board. I said, "This whole Bachelor thing seems weird. It’s great. It’s luxurious. It’s really selfish, and I have a feeling that I’m going to lose myself because I know myself, and as soon as I start to get attention I start to thrive." They said, "Ben, we know the person you are, just know through this experience you could use it for good -- Humanity and Hope could benefit greatly." So my newfound purpose is using this platform … it’s been the one thing that’s kept me grounded and not let all this go to my head. … I am not the greatest thing out there. There’s people out there who have a lot less than I do and are doing much greater things than I ever could or will do. It’s seeing life in its rawest state, that survival. It’s knowing that people are hurting … realizing that life is a lot bigger than any show, any breakup, any accolades.
What about how all the trips to Honduras have affected you as a person overall?
My faith has increased because of it, and also at times I’ve questioned my faith because of it. … This has made my faith real. … I don’t know what my life would look like if I hadn’t had the experience of seeing someone dying of starvation; I don’t think I would be the same person. … It’s kept things simple for me. … There hasn’t been a time when I lead a trip and then leave Honduras and I don’t cry. It just happens every time! … My heart has been broken in a real way. … When you see this kind of pain, your heart will break at some level. So it’s just helped me to feel deep, deep pain and it’s changed my world view so much, opened my eyes to the needs that are out there and I really am grateful for that. I don’t want to be cold or blinded or hard-hearted to what life really is for a lot of people.
You do a lot of work families and kids. Does that make things even harder?
It's allowed me to feel a bit like a parent at times. ... When you go down there, these kids really love you. There's no judgment, no shame, no societal pressures. These kids jump into your arms and want to be held and cared for. It melts your heart, and being around that, for me, has allowed me to get even more excited about the idea of a family one day.
You co-founded Generous Coffee to coincide with Humanity and Hope. What's the relationship?
Generous donates 10 percent of our revenue to Humanity and Hope off the top, it’s our main beneficiary of funds. Generous was started because of Humanity and Hope. We knew because of The Bachelor, donations had increased, but that wasn't going to be sustainable long-term, and we had a responsibility to these communities to keep up our fundraising. Generous is an idea to sell the best coffee in the world and donate that money back to Humanity and Hope and keep the organization moving and over time grow its impact. It’s gone really well. The two share resources, people, take mutual trips. It’s been really cool to see how the purchase of a product can help support a vision. … We ask these people, "What do you dream of?" and it’s about doing that instead of telling them what they should have.
So what’s the easiest way for people to first get involved with helping in Honduras?
Reach out to Humanity and Hope … they have a team of about 30 volunteers who are constantly responding to emails and connecting volunteers to current projects and initiatives, or with trips, we do about 10 trips a year and I typically lead two of those. .. The volunteer and the consumer, that’s the hero. It’s way larger than me. We need help, and that means people.