Tim and his wife Yas were on honeymoon in Sri Lanka, when they learned about the tea estates near their hotel, and the people who live there. Sri Lanka is full of lush, rolling hills of green tea leaves and tea is one of their major exports. However, the people who pick tea live on less than a dollar a day, and live in tea estate “housing” in very poor conditions. They are kept uneducated as a dependent workforce. Their children are their chance to escape poverty, but to get a living-wage job or go to university, they must speak English well. Schools in the tea estates are underfunded and many of the teachers themselves don’t speak English – setting kids up for failure.
Tim and Yas started the Tea Leaf Trust in 2007 — an immersive English program where 18-24 year olds from the tea estates learn language, leadership, and self-efficacy skills. While in the program, TLT students go into the tea estate communities and teach weekly English lessons to younger students, and do service projects to benefit the broader community. Several TLT students have returned to become teachers in the program!