Projects for Peace: The Vision of Kathryn W. Davis

"My challenge to you is to bring about a mind-set of preparing for peace, instead of preparing for war."

Nurturing Entrepreneurship in the Hill Tribes

Project #
Wheaton College
  • Rebecca Rosenzweig

Nurturing Entrepreneurship in the Hill Tribes

The Hill Tribes are people of Thai and Karen ethnicities along the border of Thailand and Myanmar. “They fled from persecution in Burma long ago, and have since been stuck in a cycle of poverty with little access to education and health care,” writes Rebecca Rosenzweig. Through her project, which had support from the U.S.-based Rustic Pathways Foundation, Rebecca, an American student, led the construction and opening of a café in Mae Sarian, a small town in western Thailand near the national border. Hill Tribe teenagers gain job skills and practice English as they run the café and manage its business.

The Six Degrees Café is on property owned by Rustic Pathways, whose Children’s Home on the property each year welcomes about 30 Thai-Karen young people from the Hill Tribes. Without access to education, vocational training or language skills, Hill Tribe teens are vulnerable to human traffickers in the border area. But in working at the café, students gain vocational and language skills as they serve volunteers, tourists, and area visitors, selling locally sourced snacks and beverages along with souvenirs and Hill Tribe handicrafts.

The cafe is profitable and self-sustaining. The students work as volunteers for the learning experience, with all proceeds going to support the café and their high school education. “As a successful business model,” Rebecca writes, “my project’s structure can be molded to work in many communities around the world.”