Mai’s Story

It was never her choice. But it was her consequence. Living in the lush hills of northern Thailand, the angry young woman despised her parents’ decision to raise coffee instead of the more lucrative opium. Years of waiting for the bushes to mature and produce fed frustration and uncertainty about her future. There was always just enough money to keep the land. They barely had enough to eat and definitely not enough for school. In growing the beans that produce a drink others crave for energy, Mai watched her family’s vitality go down the drain.

Seeing no future in her village, she secretly agreed to go with newfound friends to Chiang Mai. They had promised her an exciting life full of possibility…food, fun, freedom.

Mai’s senses were on overload in the city. An abundance of people and new things all around her. But a lack of opportunity to work. No one would hire her, especially since the hills, not the city, were her home. One of the new friends told her about a job at a massage parlor. Good pay, easy work and the experience she needed to move up in the world. Most importantly, she could make enough money to send some home to help her family. She may have escaped their hut but they had not left her heart.

She arrived at her new job nervous and excited. After the initial introductions and a tour of the place, she felt more comfortable as the day progressed.  Later in the day that all changed.  Her boss, who had been providing her water throughout the day as she worked, slipped a narcotic in to her glass.  She felt very strange and then blacked out.  When she woke, she found herself, half dressed, in a dimly lit room and in great pain.  Realizing she had been raped, she started screaming for help.  Immediately, two shadows entered the room and beat her quiet.

When she came to again, she met her new owner. Fear flooded her heart as she realized her situation. There would be no freedom here. All that she’d known was gone. She would never see her family again.

The years passed and Mai’s heart grew duller. There was no more shame, no more feeling, no more anything. She was 20 and numb. One day, a client entered her stall. Quietly he told her he was not interested in a massage. He was there to rescue her. Dormant emotions flooded her. She felt as paralyzed as she had that first day – yet she felt deep down she could trust this man.

He was true to his word. Once they’d liberated her she was taken to a safe house where she could get the help she needed. There was a lot to undo and even more to build back up. The day came when her caregivers helped her make the hard phone call to her parents, telling them she was alive and was now okay. She had good days and bad days. On the bad days, she felt trapped again – this time by guilt for not being able to pull her weight, receiving so much from the others and nothing to give in return. She constantly felt pulled back into her old life because it was all she knew.

Then she met another young woman. Lalana owned a coffee shop. More importantly, Lalana had a story that offered hope. She had suffered the same horrors as Mai. Yet she lived a life of freedom and possibility. Mai began to work at the shop. The more she and Lalana talked, the more this daughter of coffee farmers learned of the source of Lalana’s hope. Soon Mai gave her life to the giver of that hope, Jesus. She began to make trips home and share about this new life and new hope. Her connections at the shop offered opportunities for her family to access markets, loans, agricultural expertise and grow in knowledge about farming and coffee production. Soon they were serving her family’s coffee in their shop. And others were buying it to ship around the world.

One day, as Mai took a break in the shop, she sat in wonder. She had fled her village to escape her family’s choice. She had hoped for freedom and possibility. She’d been trapped into a life of shame and despair. The customer sitting next to her wondered what was behind the big smile that spread over the beautiful young woman’s face. He had only to ask to hear it was hope infused by healing hearts.

International Coffee Cooperative

Tagline:  To infuse hope into every life connected with coffee.

Our mission:

  • To empower every life connected with coffee
  • To create connections, value, and mutual benefit
  • To inspire confidence, dignity and trust
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