She rode as far as the vehicle would take her before hop­ping out onto the uneven dirt road to walk the rest of the way. In the trop­ical heat of Thai­land, thick trees grew close to the road as Emily Turner ven­tured fur­ther into the dis­trict of Phrao.

Ahead, in the crude set­tle­ments she sought, lived the ethnic minori­ties so poor as to be among the most mar­gin­al­ized in the country. “These people live without the most basic neces­si­ties and health care. They don’t even speak the lan­guage, but instead speak their own dialect,” says Turner, a North­eastern senior studying inter­na­tional affairs and polit­ical science.

Where most would see despair, she saw opportunity.

During her co-​​op posi­tion working for Warm Heart Thai­land from July to December 2008, Turner was instru­mental in sev­eral ini­tia­tives to develop public health care and microbusi­ness oppor­tu­ni­ties for the poor.

A researcher for the non­profit orga­ni­za­tion, Turner reached out to the com­mu­nity she was trying to help, and intro­duced con­cepts and ideas that might serve them.

Women weavers knit the fabric of those plans with the col­orful scarves they assem­bled. In a microen­ter­prise effort, Turner con­vinced the women to let Warm Hearts sell their wares in the U.S. and return the profits to the small com­mu­nity, she explains.

The ven­ture proved a suc­cess. “These scarves, which are made by the poor living in the low­lands, are now being sold on col­lege cam­puses, including North­eastern Uni­ver­sity, Rut­gers and the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­fornia in San Diego,” she says.

The achieve­ment was espe­cially rewarding for Turner, whose con­nec­tion with Thai­land began long before her co-​​op. As a child, Turner, the daughter of a Fil­ipino mother, sent her castoff clothes to rel­a­tives still living in the Philip­pines. When she vis­ited Thai­land as a teenager, the bond was instant. “The first time I went, I felt like I was at home,” she says. “I grew up in Ver­mont, where it’s really homoge­nous. Cul­tur­ally, I felt I belonged in Thai­land, among the Bud­dhists who really intrigue me.”

She has never lost sight of her her­itage or her altru­istic ambi­tion. “Microen­ter­prise, like the one we did in Thai­land, is one of those poverty alle­vi­a­tion efforts that has been proven to work,” she says, adding that she hopes her future pro­fes­sion allows her to con­tinue this type of work.