New Realities, New Ideas

Life Passions

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Ever since being in Thailand, I’ve seen some pretty harsh realities but yesterday was a new one for me.  My team and I had spent an afternoon inside Burma visiting some families in a brick-making village.  Was it an ever eye-opening experience for me.  The experience both drained and uplifted my soul.  

Seeing such realities tends to damage my soul a little bit.  It tends to make me question everything.  Why do such realities exist?  Why is it that I will probably never experience anything even remotely close these realities?  How can I justify my way of life after seeing the way others live?  Why am I not doing more to champion their cause?  

These questions all tend to be rhetorical though because quite frankly, I think people have been asking these questions for generations without ever coming up with satisfying answers.  It just so happens that I’m asking them now.  But even without the answers that will satisfy, I am left feeling hopeful and inspired; hopeful for the village, the families, the adults, and the children.  Inspired by their family units, their support for one another, and their team spirit.  

Brick-making is a labour-intensive process.  But I feel like because the process is so involved, it brings the family units together.  All the different stages involved, all the intricate elements, all the precise timing; it causes everyone to work together and thereby bringing them closer together because they are working together towards one common goal, one common purpose.

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Let me share a little bit of how bricks go from dirt to being sold on pallets.  *Skip to the next paragraph if you really don’t care how bricks are made 🙂  It begins with digging out the earth; strategically carving it out as to not create a mess within the land you live in but creating an aesthetically beautiful landscape amongst the dirt.  You then need to methodically and manually separate the rocks from the mud.  Missing a rock means you could potentially jam the mixer machine which means no one’s making bricks.  This is then followed by carrying kilos of mud mixed with grain about 30-40 yards to the mixer, on your head.  There is one guy at the mixer constantly pushing the mud grain mixture down the chute that mixes it and presses out a log of clay.  A lady carefully pinches off the exact amount needed for one row of 5 bricks and pushes it down a ramp.  A little boy then pulls a lever that moves the log of clay through a slicer that evenly cuts the log into bricks.  Two women then move the newly cut row of cut clay onto a hand-made wooden slat and load it onto a wheelbarrow.  Once the wheelbarrow is filled with 6 slats, a guy wheels it down about 50 yards where he is met by another guy who helps him unload the bricks onto the ground for drying.  After days of drying, the bricks are the carted and stacked in the kiln where they are then cured.  Once cured, they are hand loaded onto a truck to be hand stacked and stored and prepared to be sold.  

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Being a process guy, watching this happen was so interesting to me.  I loved just watching things happen and figure out why they were doing what they were doing just by watching them.  It’s just how my mind works.  But more of how my mind works it to try to figure out how to improve on processes.  I am one that thrives to make things more efficient and more effective.  Watching this process really challenged me because for the most part, they seemed to have perfected it.  There weren’t too many holes in what they were doing.  They were maximizing their efforts with what they’ve been given.  So then the next question for me was, “if you were given a few more resources, how would you improve upon this process?”  My mind immediately went to a conveyor belt system, foot lever to push the clay across the slicer, and have 2 tray systems where you can immediately double production.  

Of course, it was just a thought, but then I had an epiphany; an idea that God planted in my head.  I felt like He told me, “this is how you can bring education into a town like this.”     

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You see, the idea of bringing education to the most remote parts of the world are challenging enough on their own, but the real challenges only begin once you’ve found a community to work with.  Let’s take this brick-making village for example, even if we could provide the community with laptops, software, and training to teach the adults how to teach the children, there are still very real realities of the adults needing to work to make money for their family.  Even some of the kids are involved because there isn’t enough man power.  When this is the reality, you can’t attempt to meet the higher needs of education when their realities are based around the very basic needs of food, shelter, and income.  

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So let’s come in with a more holistic approach.  Let’s present an idea that both addresses the current basic needs of a community and also the future needs of education.  Let’s enhance the current systems that they’re using to make a living thereby freeing up time and resources to devote into educating the next generation.  Let’s help without negating everything they’ve been doing to support their family.  

Excited for what is in store for the future.  

Keep dreaming!

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*Photo Credit: Michael Perez

Originally posted to Life Passions