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The Minimalists
The Minimalists are Emmy-nominated Netflix stars and New York Times–bestselling authors Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. Alongside their podcast cohost, T.K. Coleman, this simple-living trio helps millions of people eliminate clutter and live meaningfully with less. Learn More.

The Minimalists Are Building a School

We first met Tyson Adams last year when he traveled several days from Paksong, Laos, to tell his story at Misfit Con, a private conference in Fargo, North Dakota.

Tyson took the microphone, cleared his throat, and explained how he had radically simplified his life. A few years ago, he shoved all his possessions into a storage locker on the outskirts of Seattle, reduced his belongings to a few bags, and then moved to Laos, where he started Jhai Coffee, the world’s first completely philanthropic coffee roaster and cafe, located at the source. Jhai’s mission: educate coffee farmers about specialty growing practices, purchase coffee directly from farmers at higher-than-Fair Trade prices, and invest 100% of Jhai’s profits into building clean-water and hygiene solutions at schools within the community.

Tyson talked about why he’d felt drawn to Laos, exposing an uncomfortable history many of us have long forgotten. As a part of its efforts during the Vietnam War, the U.S. dropped an average of one planeload of cluster bombs on Laos every eight minutes, 24 hours a day, for nine straight years. This makes Laos the most heavily bombed country (per capita) in the world. A third of these bombs did not explode and still remain littered throughout the country waiting for unsuspecting victims, 40% of them children. For the past 40 years, the Lao Government has focused on rebuilding the infrastructure in its cities before improving its rural areas, which has left the country in a severe clean-water and sanitation crisis. Today, under half of the population of Laos has access to clean, safe drinking water. So Tyson decided that perhaps he could focus less on his material possessions and instead find ways to help.

Tyson told the conference about his organization’s initial accomplishments. Since 2013, Jhai has partnered with the Lao Government; Jhai Coffee Farmers Cooperative (JCFC); and a private water-filter company, TerraClear, to serve 23 schools—helping 3,277 children along the way. In less than two years, they have provided 25 water purification filters (filtering up to 99.99% of bacteria, parasites, and suspended solids); completed 21 WASH programs (Jhai’s Hygiene program); installed seven Unicef-manufactured water pumps at schools that previously had no access; built a coffee storage warehouse for the JCFC where farmers house their coffee in a safe, climate-controlled environment, which increases profits for each family; and given organic-coffee training to fifteen member villages for increased quality and future earning potential.

All of this because one man said no to the status quo and yes to contribution.

Tyson’s talk received a standing ovation, not because of his prowess as a raconteur (and not because he looks like Ryan Nicodemus’s younger brother—photos below), but because everyone was moved by his sincerity, his authenticity, his passion to contribute beyond himself.

But what we didn’t know was that when Tyson took the stage he was terribly ill, and after his heartfelt presentation he was rushed to the emergency room to receive treatment. The doctor’s suspected dengue fever.

Things didn’t look good, and when word got back to the conference, a somber malaise overtook its attendees. After hours of waiting, we learned Tyson had a severe case of stomach flu—very severe—but thankfully he was going to be okay.

Suffice it to say, we quickly broke out our checkbook, as did others, to help Tyson bring more clean water to his community in Laos. And now, as you can see in the photos below, we want to help Jhai build a new school for the children in their community. And we need some help.

About the Pumako School Project

Pumako village has a dilapidated school that needs to be replaced. It was constructed in 1981, and now, 34 years later, there are holes in the roof and dirt for a floor, making the wet and muddy conditions inside the schoolhouse impossible for students to attend classes during the rainy seasons (September, October, April, and May).

Mornsy Chommany, Pumako’s school director since 1997, first started as a teacher in 1987 (Mornsy is pictured with Tyson below). For 28 years, she has raised her students from young children to married adults. Today, she teaches former students’ children and feels a sense of responsibility to see learning conditions improve as each generation grows up under her care.

When Tyson first visited Paksong (Jhai’s home village) in 2010, he built a small storybook library at Pumako school. On that day, Tyson asked Mornsy what the school’s greatest needs were. Mornsy replied, “Look at the holes in my roof. My dirt floor. When it rains it becomes muddy and I have to cancel class. I need toilets for my children. I need a new school.”

Every year for the past five years, Mornsy has made the same request to Jhai. Through this collaboration, we will help Pumako build a new school—making Mornsy and the community’s dream come true.

We need to raise $16,500 to make this happen, but we aren’t doing it alone. Pumako village will invest $2,500, and our friends at Misfit Inc. have agreed to contribute seven grand. Which means The Minimalists and our readers need to raise only $7,000.

Joshua and Ryan have donated the initial $1,000, and so we need your help to raise the remaining $6,000. Together, our donations will build an entire school, including three classrooms for 66 children, boy’s and girl’s toilets, one teacher’s office, one creative space (library, art supplies, chairs), one swing set and playground area, and an organic-vegetable garden (seeds, wood, and materials).


If you are willing to give, The Minimalists are willing to give back. We have agreed to give something to everyone who donates to this worthy cause. There are a couple donation options:

1. GIVING IS LIVING: DONATE $27. If you donate at least $27, you will receive monthly photo updates from Jhai to keep you informed of the school’s progress. You will also be able to watch the school’s opening ceremony online.

2. BUILD YOUR GIVING MUSCLE: DONATE ANYTHING. Whether you can donate $9 or $900, we could use your help—simply give whatever you can afford. No matter your donation amount, you’ll receive the monthly photo updates.

Donate via PayPal

Deadlines and Updates

DEADLINE: February 28, 2015. We must raise this money by February 28th so we can begin to build the school before the rainy season. We’ll post regular updates below. If we exceed our goal, we’ll use any additional money to build a fence for the school.

2/16/2015 UPDATE: $1,000 of $7,000 raised so far.

2/18/2015 UPDATE: $5,390 of $7,000. Getting close!

2/19/2015 UPDATE: Great news—we reached our goal! You can still donate until February 28th; all additional funds will be used to improve upon this school or on similar community projects. Stay tuned for this project’s final totals in our update at the end of the month.

03/01/2015 UPDATE: Wow! Y’all’re awesome. Together we raised $30,533.56. Not only did we reach our goal, but we raised enough additional money to install solar panels for electricity and build a new fence around the perimeter of the school. Yay! Together we are making a difference. Thank you for being a part of this wonderful gift. We appreciate you.

Photos from the Community

Below are some photos from the school. Special thanks to Berni Xiong for coordinating this entire campaign. We couldn’t’ve done it without her. And now we can’t do it without you. Are you willing to help?

DSC03446DSC02149 DSC03559 DSC06870 DSC06880 DSC06948 DSC06972 DSC06984 DSC06999 image1 image2 image5 image6Tyson

Yes, giving is living, and sharing is caring. Invite others to give with you: