When you make a decision to drastically change your surroundings, you assume that the world will be completely different. Every experience you have and person you encounter is assumed to be revolutionary regardless of the situation. Since moving to Thailand 6 months ago, I've realized that experiences, like I presumed, were revolutionary. Many days have felt like I was born again because of many new smells, tastes, and sights, but my assumption of people being different was wrong.
While there are obviously slight differences, people are essentially the same. Everyone I have encountered in Thailand wants the same things out of life as those in America: to be happy, healthy, have purpose, and be loved.
The photograph above was taken during my second visit to a rural village in the Doi Chang Valley where our coffee is harvested. Hilltribe members, often related, spend countless hours hand picking the coffee from the ripe age of 10 until their fingers can no longer handle the stress that picking coffee puts on them. Quite often, older generations continue to work through pain from arthritis in order to make ends meet.
Younger generations have begun to see their future reflecting in the faces of their parents and are seeking a way out. Opportunities are abundant in surrounding countries, and the Millennials are not hesitating to take this one way ticket out of a predetermined future.
"Brain drain," or the emigration of skilled individuals, is something that has made a lasting impact on my perspective while working in Appalachia. Children were born into a never-ending cycle of poverty, and it was no surprise that if offered a way out, they took it. University, professional careers, and even the military delivered a first class ticket out of this cycle that their peers were trapped in. As skilled individuals continuously leave the area that so desperately needs them, the cycle will continue for future generations.
In my eyes, this epidemic that has plagued poor communities can be cured from the inside. Creating opportunities within these communities that evoke passion and drive within younger generations will encourage them to use their talents to benefit people immediately around them rather than those that are tens, hundreds, or even thousands of miles away.
Coffee, to most people, is a delicious, integral part of your day that gives you motivation to complete even the most mundane tasks. To others, this is that opportunity that sparks passion, love, and purpose. The photograph above is not just a still shot of farmers picking coffee, yet it is a photograph that highlights an opportunity to bring a community together over a specialty trade they can be proud of.
Creating a great cup of coffee is definitely what I love to do, but creating opportunities for others is what I am passionate about. Keeping families together by creating opportunities through specialty coffee is something that I am proud to be a part of and even happier to share with you.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you for helping us create opportunities.