After first hearing Nid’s life story, I couldn’t seem to shake it. How different would I be if I had been forced to leave home at the age of 12 to make my way in the world? My daughter Cierra, who has lived in Thailand for 3 years now, introduced me to Nid’s daughter, Khem, on my first visit to Thailand. She was a bright, friendly High School student who spoke English well.
Cierra first met Nid when taking a long truck ride with Khem’s family to visit her home village in the northeast part of Thailand. The village was remote and rustic with no department or grocery stores at which to buy food, clothing or household goods. Most everything eaten was grown or raised locally, and most clothing was handmade. Cierra’s white skin was a novelty to those who gathered to meet this foreigner; several pinched and stroked her arm to see what skin that pale felt like.
Khem’s mother, Nid, grew up in this village, the oldest daughter of poor farmers. She went to school as a child, but at the tender and vulnerable age of 12, her family sent her to the city to earn money instead. She found work in a factory, earning just enough to send money home every month while still covering her own expenses. She continues to faithfully support her parents to this day, even after getting married and starting a family of her own. Nid eventually found work in a leather factory and became a skilled artisan. As time went on, she was proud to see Khem excel in school and become the first in her family to attend college. In 2016, however, Nid and her husband (who also worked in the leather factory) lost their jobs due to downsizing. Nid’s father became ill, and she was asked to return home to care for him. Always an obedient daughter, Nid returned to her home village.
Once Nid returned to her home village, there was no way to continue earning a living sufficient to pay for Khem’s education. Even so, she was determined to do so. It was at this point Khem remembered that Cierra’s mother worked with women artisans from developing countries. Khem asked Cierra if I might be interested in helping Nid sell her leather jewelry in the US. When I heard about the opportunity, I was thrilled, of course. This is exactly why Elevat exists; to help women bring their handmade products to the US marketplace. This past January, I brought Nid’s gorgeous leather bracelets back with me from Thailand. I hope you can recognize the beauty and strength in these bracelets, qualities imparted by their maker, Nid. I also hope you find strength in this story like I did. We are braver and stronger than we realize. These bracelets symbolize how women can reach out from miles away and give strength and endurance to one another. Please join me in celebrating this beautiful and strong woman who has risen to the challenges life has given her and seeks to impart better opportunities for her children than she was given.