Two years ago I visited a slum that used to be an old garbage dump. Yes, a place where garbage was piled so high that the city decided to find a new place to put their garbage, was now a place where families built lean-to shacks and raised their families. It was at this slum that I met a woman, a single mom, who was doing her best to avoid joining the sex industry in an attempt to make money to provide for her family. (Because of the genocide eduction and trade skills are very low, many women are faced with the choice of selling themselves in prostitution or allowing their children to go hungry). She watched many families around her struggle, many of the women ending up trapped in the viscous cycle of prostitution, but she knew there had to be a better way. As a result, she had taught herself how to make handcrafted jewelry in order to provide for her family. She had nothing to make it with, so I was blown away at her ingenuity and ability to create such beautiful pieces from what was around her. She crafted used coconut shells and pieces of paper into perfect beads, and carefully painted each one by hand. Then stringing each one, she created beautiful, one of a kind masterpieces!
I was overwhelmed by her beautiful story, her determination, and her creativity. I couldn't help but buy almost everything she had made, thinking they would make great gifts for friends and family when I visited the States. As I gathered the jewelry into my bag, the lady began to cry... something that Cambodians, seasoned by trials and hardship, rarely do. She shared with me that she did not have enough money to pay her rent (for her shack in the garbage dump) and was expecting to be kicked out of her home the following day, but our purchase not only gave her enough for rent but also to feed her family. I was so touched that this simple purchase could make such an impact on this young family, and a seed was planted in my heart to support young women like her who bravely ventured into new businesses to escape the cycle of poverty.
To my surprise when I returned to America, everyone who knew us soon wanted a piece of this jewelry for themselves! Not only that, but people were contacting me and wanting to buy them, but I only had a very limited quantity. So I began a mission to track down this amazing young lady and partner with her to create a jewelry line for Brighter Days Coffee. Two years later, armed with nothing but a photo of this lady from our original purchase (above) we contacted friends from around the globe to set out on a journey to track her down, not and easy task in Cambodia where identification cards, phone numbers, and emails are slim. By the grace of God, within just a few hours we got word that they had found her! Again, we purchased everything that she had made, and not only that one of her neighbors had started making jewelry as well! So we were able to support TWO families!
You all know by now that we are wild and crazy dreamers, our vision is to create enough demand for this jewelry that we would be able to hire on people like Chaya to create jewelry full time. Our heart is that they would be able to follow their passion and use their creativity and never have to worry about if their kids will have food, or if they will lose their homes.
We are so excited to be able to offer this beautiful hand crafted collection on our store! ROAR is a wild, bold, and beautifully crafted collection. So help us spread the word about these masterpieces! Your purchases not only help support Chaya and her family, but every purchase provides three meals to the street children we work with in Cambodia! It's time to look as bold on the outside as you feel on the inside, ROAR!
Founder of Brighter Days Coffee