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Meet Bernard Kervyn!

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Amanda Kee

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Co-Author: Roshini Prakash

4 min read

He is transforming lives in rural Mekong through quilt-making. He explains how participatory community development empowers women at the BoP to earn more income, build better homes, improve healthcare, and send their children to school.

As a founding member of Mekong Quilts, what were your personal goals?

Poverty is a deep systemic problem in rural Mekong. For women, it is especially difficult to break out of the poverty cycle. Often living in remote places, they need to find employment opportunities that allow them to remain close to their children.

My goal is to provide a sustainable development tool to empower the poorest to improve their wellbeing without having to move away from their home villages. The results have gone well beyond our expectations, but we believe we can do even more, particularly with government support to alleviate high cost of operation in remote regions.

What is unique about quilts?

Quilt-making is very labor intensive and requires low initial investment, so it is an ideal industry to generate employment. Vietnamese & Khmer women are also excellent quilters!

We decided to build MQ to create rewarding and sustainable employment for women, while generating enough profits to support other social programmes, including education scholarships, in their villages. Since then, 200 women have joined us as well-trained quilters.

Could you share a personal success story since establishing Mekong Quilts? How can other founders and/or leaders like yourself continue to find inspiration and motivation to do what you do?

I met a family of 5 (a mother and 4 young children) back in 2016, all of whom were in poor health. Their family was struggling to survive, and was helpless in alleviating their situation. The land around them was not fertile enough to yield crops; their made-shift home of four poles with a tarpaulin did not have shield them from rainfall; the children did not attend schools.

After we brought the mother on as a quilter, we saw quite a change in the family after 3 years. Her income has more than doubled, and they now live in a concrete-built house, with all her children going to school through scholarships.

We are inspired each time we visit the villagers with whom we work. Meeting with them and listening to their stories, their worries and challenges remind us that the work we do is meaningful and has a tangible impact on their lives.

What have you learnt about yourself through this journey? About society? About people?

Patience, patience, and more patience!

Look through Mekong Quilts’s Deal Page and reach out if you wish to explore how you can collaborate to further their cause!

References

A. Environmental Stewardship
To protect the environment, we organize programmes like mangrove nursery and Reforestation, Coastal and River Clean-Up, Community Based Environmental Solid Waste Management, Environmental IEC Campaign and Eco-Academy

B. Food Security and Sustainable Livelihood
To ensure a sustainable livelihood for the community, eco-tourism include Buhatan River Cruise Visitor Center Buhatan River Mangrove Boardwalk are run by the community. Others include Organic Vegetable and Root crops Farming, Vegetable and Root crops Chips and by-products Processing and establishing a Zero waste store.

C. Empowered Communities
To empower the community, we provide product and Agri-Enterprise Development Training, Immersion and Learnings Exchange Program, Earth Warrior Training and Community Based Social Entrepreneurship Training

Author

Amanda Kee

Amanda is a Manager in the Capital Mobilisation team at AVPN. She works with grantmakers, corporations, and on-the-ground implementers to bridge knowledge and capital gaps. Most recently, she launched the Asian Youth for Impact (ayPact), in which funders and solutionists looking to scale their impact in youth development can more efficiently find partners, resources, and collaboration opportunities. Previously, Amanda was the Content Marketing Manager at AVPN. She supported the CEO across multiple fronts, including speaking engagements, media relations, and thought leadership. She also led the creation of diverse video, podcast, and blog series to advocate for funders' key social issues. Amanda is an English Literature graduate at the National University of Singapore. She is also the author of local children's book: The Runaway Who Became President, published in 2016. Amanda is a board member at her community schoolhouse, which provides affordable early childhood education for low-income families. In her free time, she provides pro-bono digital marketing and events curation support to foster community building in her hometown in Singapore.

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