Today I got an email from a friend I met while we were both in Thailand. She is back there working on a project to find honest wholesalers to sell the pearls directly to the artisans who create jewelry with the pearls. The goal is to cut out the middlemen so that ultimately the artisans would receive a fair profit from their work. A similar program is already underway in The Philippines.
Her email was short but brought back so many memories of the time I spent there last summer. As a nursing student, I had 4 months off during the summer and after searching for weeks for a humanitarian project to join, I heard about the Wave of Hope project. It is an NGO started by BYU students who were part of a social entrepreneur/global change agent program and was part of a larger group called Empowering Nations. I was blessed with the chance to spend 5 weeks in Thailand, 4 weeks working in Khao Lak and 1 as a tourist in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Khao Lak, where we stayed, is a small town about 60 km north of Phuket, in an area that was devasted by the tsunami in December 2004. I spent my days building houses out of concrete blocks in a small village, Tap Tawaan, about 20 km farther outside of Khao Lak.
I think about that trip almost everyday. I can't believe the impact this experience had on my life. I'm not even sure I realized it when I was there but it probably holds a place in my heart and mind equal to my mission. Yep, tearing up right now just thinking about it; it's hard to type when blurry-eyed.
I miss the wonderful hotel, The Baan Krating, where I was lucky enough to have air-conditioning and Jaime, a friend from home, as my roommate. I miss the restaurants with the best Thai food ever and so cheap. I miss being somewhere that the only time I was in a room with walls was either church or the hotel. But most of all, I miss the feelings I had while there. I miss the wonderful people I worked with. I loved helping and laughing and working so hard but feeling so good. I loved the Spirit that permeated my days spent surrounded by other socially-conscious people who love one another and act on their beliefs.
So if this sounds like something you would like to do, this same organization is planning another trip for Summer 2006. There are plans to go to Africa, South America, and back to Thailand. I got an email about it recently, however, I don't think all of the information is on the Empowering Nations website yet, so please check back if you might be able to help.