Open the pouch and peek at the story of “WellBeing”, a social enterprise brand which preserves local wisdom and generate income for families of underprivileged children.
“WellBeing” is a brand established by World Vision Foundation of Thailand (WVFT). It’s not about only chic bags but also social enterprise which promotes local wisdom compacted in modern packages, in order to create well-being for children from impoverished families in the community. Individual handmade bags in distinctive patterns are packed with much more meaningful stories than those products coming out of the industrial line.
“WellBeing” started 6 years ago. What brought WVFT and Orathai Mayur, the 49-year-old chairperson of an Akha housewives group, to their first meeting was “Ahai”, her son who was a primary school student when he was sponsored through Mae Taeng Area Development Programme. Apart from the educational support, Ahai also received 2 pigs to generate extra family income. Orathai invested the 14,000 baht she made from selling the full-grown pigs they’d raised in buying fabric to make bags. That was the beginning of concrete collaboration between WVFT and Orathai to bring out the identity of her tribe through the handicraft skills which Orathai and her group’s members pulled together.
“I started from hand sewing and have been doing it since. I wanted my son to have daily allowance to school every day. The income from corn growing once a year alone was not enough,” Orathai recalled.
In the course of the partnership, when WVFT staff asked what this far-off artisan wanted in her life, the answer was to constantly have jobs to do. Since then, WVFT has been continually feeding jobs for her to do. Then, Orathai introduced WVFT to other 15 neighbours of hers who have come together to set up Ban Si Dong Yen Sewing Group.
Mr Anusorn Somsiri, Social Enterprise Group Director, described that the community work with WVFT voluntarily based on all parties’ willingness and contentment. “We only guided them, showed them the designs people in town prefer and persuaded them to try making the products in these modern designs. When they could do it, they felt happy. Our recommendations were just based on what they’ve mastered. One may say we work for them rather than they for us. It’s not like we make them work for us. When we told Orathai that customers have bought her bags, her eyes became sparkling with overwhelming joy. Besides having made some money, she is glad and proud that her tribal products have been bought by people from other cultural backgrounds.”
The local people can generate income from locally-available inputs found in the community, including both raw materials and local knowledge, resulting in value adding to their traditional way of life and local wisdom. The bags supplied to WVT are uniquely stylish and, of course, assorted with chunks of happiness of the people who’ve made them.
Bit by bit, starting from sewing little coin bags, now Orathai can make a wider range of products based on the local wisdom from other places. “It took me only one week to learn,” Orathai revealed how swiftly she’s picked up on making a new product. Today her products supplied to the market include chic “quilt bags” and striking “Christmas and New Year hats”, which have given her both income and pride. The most important things hidden in these products are well-being and sustainability. The local people have had steady work and generated income within the community, leading to improved quality of life. All family members can be together as they don’t have to go different ways to find jobs elsewhere. Loving and caring atmosphere has returned home. Nowadays, the extra income has enabled their self-sufficiency and happiness.
“We’re much better now. Without the support from WVFT, we wouldn’t have had such wonderful days like these. I’d like to thank the sponsor for the ongoing educational support given to my youngest son. He’s in secondary school now. I want him to go to a medical school. We’ll keep fighting. Thank you very much,” Orathai Mayur, the group leader, said eloquently with a smile.
Today you may find “WellBeing” bags at our booth in various product fairs in Chiang Mai province and at community product showroom, WVFT Bangkok Office and online at https://www.facebook.com/WellBeing.WVFT or contact Ms Thewee Chaiwises, Tel. 088 551 5700