Field Notes: Finding Purpose in the Journey

Contributing Writer: Brian Flick

As a company, we expect customers to reach out to us. But when we were founded in 2012, we never could have anticipated the kinds of amazing stories people would send us on an almost daily basis. We've read ones that have been inspirational, hilarious, uplifting, sobering, just downright interesting, and everything in between. And honestly, they're too good not to share. So in this series, we're passing the mic to you. 

Meet Brian Flick, an avid outdoor enthusiast who wanted to make his travel more meaningful. Here is his story:

When I turned down a job at a prominent outdoor publication, my girlfriend and I decided we were going to use that moving money to fund an unforgettable trip. Thailand caught our attention immediately. Being an emerging country on the complete opposite side of the world full of vibrant flavors and exciting animals we’d never seen in person, we couldn’t think of a reason not to go. After 7 months of preparation, we had it all nailed down except one thing… how were we going to help Thailand? Sure, we could pump money into their booming tourism industry, but to us, that was disenchanting. Anyone can do that. I’m a “dream big” guy and always end up in over my head somehow. Since I work at REI, I’m very familiar with a lot of brands and their usefulness – and that’s where MPOWERD came into play. Luci lights are honestly one of my most recommended products to shoppers; so naturally, I reached out to the company. Shortly after, we were on our way to Chiang Mai, Thailand, Luci’s in tow.

Chiang Mai is a special city. Situated amongst mountain ranges, a developing UNESCO “Creative City” and home to many offshoots of Karen and Hmong tribal communities that relocated from the mountains of China and Myanmar, we knew this was where we’d make our biggest impact. We first stayed at the Chia Lai Orchid: Elephant Sanctuary where we met Bow.

Bow is a 34-year-old woman from the Karen Tribe. She drives her scooter one hour every day from her very remote village to work at the Chai Lai Orchid. After learning more about her, we found out that she owned a cellphone for an unusual reason - it was the cheapest way the government could provide her with a flashlight. There’s no Wi-Fi or cell service in her village. There are four families that all work together to provide for the village. For light, everyone relies on two really old and inefficient government-provided solar panels to power the four cell phones and one giant communal candle that they light each night when the tribe gathers to talk.

"She could barely contain herself, vowing she would send me pictures of the children in the village using the lights"

Though the city is less than an hour away, she’s never been and never intends to because it scares her. When we asked Bow what was most important to her she replied, “My family, a little bit of money and enough rice to last the year.” When we presented her with five Luci Lights for her village, she could barely contain herself, vowing she would send me pictures of the children in the village using the lights to study and complete homework. We were equally excited for her and her village.

Our next stop was the Hmong Village in Doi Suthep-Pui National Park, and we felt like we were in an Indiana Jones movie. Being guided by a local Thai man who spoke little English in a beat up Land Rover while bouncing through a bushwhacked single lane dirt road on the edge of a mountain is exactly how I’d like to arrive at any destination from now on. After arriving and receiving a bowl of Khao Soi (regional dish) and a hot cup of coffee brewed with beans growing literally 10 feet away from us, we could tell this village was full of life. Yet we soon realized that it was equally empty of almost any electricity. We were guided to a local middle school where teachers greeted us upon arrival.

Our driver translated our description of how Luci lights work to the teachers. Once they understood, some of the children of the school came to join us and we promptly passed out lights to each of the students. After all were handed out and our gathering had ended, we visited a traditional Hmong house in the village. It was then that we realized how big of an impact these lights would have. With only natural light to illuminate the inside of these two-room mud dwellings that often housed upwards of 4 families, Luci lights would now empower these families in a way they’d never experienced before. We left with our stomachs full, our eyes opened and our hearts happy. We were able to bring 25 Luci lights to Thailand for people who needed them. 25 lights. That’s hardly a scratch on the surface. We weren’t blind to that, but we did it anyway, and that’s the thing… No one person can fix an issue this large. That’s why we’re all in this together. If we each do a little, we all do a lot. Helping with one small step in the process may not seem like much, but with every step, we get closer to our goal. 

- Brian Flick