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Vietnam-Quilts : Mekong-Quilts
Community Development Non-Profit Organisation
December 2009 Newsletter
Welcome to the December edition of the Vietnam/Mekong-Quilts newsletter. Firstly, we would like to wish everyone a wonderful Christmas and a happy new year.
As always, we have plenty of news to share with you. In the following edition you will find:
- Profile on Ms Huong - A quilter in Long My
- Update on the charity bazaar season
- Vietnam and Mekong-Quilts on TV!
- New products in store
- Teaching kids to quilt - VQ quilting workshops
- Our work in Rumdoul, Cambodia
- Help us with the Lonely Planet
- Who we are
Profile on Ms Huong
Traveling around the remote area of Long My, in the heart of the Mekong Delta in Southern Vietnam, one is confronted with a breathtaking landscape. With the hundreds of tributaries thick with plant life and low lying plains covered with water, it is difficult to tell where land ends and water begins. This is one image of the Mekong region that evokes a sense of richness in the basic nutrients for life, where the rivers seem bountiful in fish, the crops almost grow by themselves, and in the sleepy villages the residents are warm and inviting. The natural beauty of the Mekong is at once a breathtaking spectacle and major drawcard for tourists. However, despite the abundance of life many of its inhabitants live in abject poverty.
One example is Ms Huong and her family, who were discovered by Mekong-Plus - Vietnam-Quilts parent NGO - several years ago. With only a small property to grow rice on, the family could yield no more than $60 US per year, so were forced into working as seasonal laborers for neighboring farms. Doing backbreaking work from dawn to dusk, Ms Huong and her husband only made around $2.20 US each per day. What’s more, because the work was seasonal they could only manage to work around 10 days each per month. Even at the best of times when they were working, they could not earn enough to adequately feed and support their two children, earning a combined yearly income of only $600 US.
Ms Huong was quickly recruited into the Vietnam-Quilts family, where she could work at a group-leader’s house not far from her own home and children. In a workplace where she could work as much as she wanted, Ms Huong could finally earn a regular income, and coupled with a micro-credit loan and training to diversify their farm to grow several kinds of fruit, the household has more than doubled their yearly income in only 1 year. This small investment coupled with the opportunity for consistent employment was enough for Ms Huong to be able to provide the essentials of life to her children: food, shelter and education.
When asked what she is saving for, she succinctly states: “It is for my children’s education”. With access to the Mekong Plus scholarship program, her children are now more likely to receive a better education and have more options than before. It highlights the significant impact that small investments have on families who are willing to work their way out of poverty and offer a better life for their children. Now, with the support of Vietnam-Quilts Ms Huong has greater control over her day-to-day life and can make decisions with the family finances to improve their lives overall.
Coming to a Bazaar Near You!
With bazaar season upon us, we have been busy running stalls at a number of special charity and Christmas events. It has been a great opportunity to meet many people who are passionate about community development and fair trade in South East Asia. Some recent highlights include the Craftlink (pictured left) and Hanoi International Women's Club Charity Bazaars in Hanoi, and the International Ladies of Vietnam Day and Mekong Merchant (pictured below) bazaars in HCMC. Also, in Cambodia Mekong-Quilts held exhibits at the Le Jardin restaurant in Phnom Penh and Apsara Hotel in Siem Reap in November.
Over the coming weeks we will be running stalls at some of the big bazaars in Hanoi and HCMC. Please see the following dates of bazaars we will be attending. If you are in town, please come along and say hello!
- Saturday 5th December - Sedona Suites Christmas Fair
- Thursday 10th December - Hanoi International Womens Club Christmas Luncheon
- Thursday 17th December - Cercle Francophone
Ho Chi Minh City
- Saturday 5th December - British International School Bazaar
- Saturday 5th December - Collette Primary School Christmas Bazaar
Mekong and Vietnam-Quilts in the Media!
In September Vietnam-Quilts Hanoi was featured in a show on Vietnam's number one English language channel - VTV4 - that looked at NGOs who help Vietnamese farmers. It toured through the shop, showcased some of our main products and interviewed the staff.
Last month, Kalyan, the manager of Mekong-Quilts Phnom Penh, was interviewed for a program broadcast on the Cambodian national channel TV3. Click here to see these interviews.
Also, VQ Ho Chi Minh City was featured on Belgian TVCom, along with the quilting programs in the remote village of Duch Linh. Click here to see this film (in French).
We have two big additions to our product range. The animal baby quilt has been immensely successful since we first introduced it in October. The colourful design with 3D parts, is fascinating for babies and young children alike. At only $40 US it is a great gift idea for a child or newborn.
Just recently we have received some round bean-filled cushions. They are available in a variety of colours and are comfortable to lie on. They can also be used as a foot rest. Only $23 US.
New Christmas Products
We have just released a new range of Christmas decorations and card designs for the festive season. These include decorative Christmas cushions to hang on your tree, wall hangings, and an extensive new selection of Christmas card colours and designs. The cards bear the Vietnam/Mekong-Quilts "non profit community development" stamp.
- Christmas Cushion Small $1.50: Large $2.50
- Wallhanging $3.00
- Vietnamese Girl Card $1.50
Teaching Kids to Quilt - The VQ Quilting Workshop
On October 9th Vietnam-Quilts staff visited Ho Chi Minh City Japanese Primary School to teach 5th and 6th grade students how to make a quilt. The group of 50 kids spent the day learning about quilting history, how to make them, as well as working together on a craft project - making decorative cards for their families.
The day was a great success and not only got the kids interested in craft and textiles, but their parents too! Thanks to Yuka, a volunteer from Japan, who made the workshop possible. We hope to follow on her good work and make it a regular event in Ho Chi Minh City.
What We Want to do in Rumdoul, Cambodia
A village in Rumdoul, Cambodia, only a few kilometers from the Vietnam border is 20 years behind for poverty. Vietnam/Mekong-Quilts parent NGO, Mekong Plus, has a new team in the area, all Khmer. They have spent months on the Long My program in Vietnam for training. The Vietnam team, when asked did not hesitate: “Yes there is still a lot to be done in Vietnam but as Mekong Plus has helped us, so we should try to help in Cambodia”.
Chia Chan Don is a very active farmer. His wife and 5 children live on 2 hectares of land, plus a small pond. They have no cow nor buffalo and cannot plough their land, they would have to hire their neighbor's, this is $75 US which they cannot afford. Such a pity because even though yields are extremely low in the village (about 0.7 tonnes per hectare compared to 5 tonnes across the border) due to poor seeds and lack of water, they could have made a net profit of $93 US. So Chia Chan Don rented his land to another farmer instead and works as a daily laborer on others’ farms. He can only find work about 10-15 days a month during the 6 month rainy season and is paid about $2.25 US per day. Rumdoul is poor and dry, so every year he migrates to a far away province. Our survey indicates that over 80% of the households in this area send at least one member to Phnom Penh for 3-5 months. In Phnom Penh, there is work and it means one less person to feed on the farm. However, HIV-AIDS has taken a heavy toll in the region due to this seasonal migration.
No chairs, nothing to share with the guests… This family may be extremely poor but they are joyful and joking. All the children are at school. They have invested in fish cultivation, and hope to make $270 US profit. Mekong Plus hopes to do much with Chia Chan Don. They offer technical advice so that he can succeed with the fish. Future projects he is considering are a microcredit loan to buy 2 cows so that he can farm his land instead of renting it to others, and invest in better seeds for the rice paddy.
Kalyan runs the Mekong-Quilts shop in Phnom Penh: “My most cherished desire is to see similar programs in Rumdoul as Mekong Plus does in Vietnam”. She is now helping in the training of 2 quilters’ groups, who will make cushions: she has promised the women that they can double their income and have regular work*. Her plan is to employ 100 women (in Vietnam Mekong-Quilts employs already 180 quilters). All profits from the shop are for Rumdoul: enough to help 25 more households each month.
Quilts, agriculture, fish raising, health education (only 5% have a latrine): Mekong Plus is in Rumdoul for the long term. Click here to see a video on the work Mekong Plus is doing in Cambodia.
*On average we need $75 US to train one quilter.
Help Us Get Reviewed in The Lonely Planet
We are still campaigning for a review of our stores in The Lonely Planet. The “travellers bible” relies on visitor recommendations, so if you have not already reviewed us we ask that you click on the link and enter the details of one of our shops. For just two minutes of your time you can help us enormously by attracting thousands of people through our doors, which will result in more women being employed.
Who We Are
Vietnam-Quilts and Mekong-Quilts are a non-profit, community development project within the NGO of Mekong Plus. The program trains and employs women in rural areas of Vietnam and Cambodia, where employment is seasonal and can require the women to leave their families for extended periods of time. We aim to give these women permanent work, with a regular income, in their own village. Currently we employ around 240 women to hand-make, design and sell quilts and home accessories in Vietnam, Cambodia and internationally, but are always looking for opportunities to employ more.
For further information about Vietnam-Quilts and Mekong-Quilts, and to view our catalogue of products, please visit our website.
Click here to find out more about how profits are used for Mekong-Plus Projects
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