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!