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Cori Wittman

More Than Basket Weaving

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Young Isaan moms and dads often don’t have the means to stay in their home villages and raise their children.  Facing financial pressure and a lack of economic options in the village, they resort to leaving their young ones with family members and migrating to urban centers to find adequate employment, sending money back home to support their family and their young ones.

Through a partnership with Step Ahead Integrated Community Development, the Breakthrough community is beginning to explore ways to create new income opportunities for individuals and families in the community.  Our hope is that these locally-driven income opportunities will enable individuals with young children to remain in the village rather than migrate to urban centers in search of employment.

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The goal of the Step Ahead partnership is to train and ultimately employ a number of individuals in the community to create leather purses, handbags and other items which can be sold locally and internationally.  Funds generated from these sales return to employ more workers or support additional economic development projects in the community.  In addition, we are taking advantage of opportunities to train community members with usable skills that can be applied in the community.

The first week-long training program took place in January, as men and women of all ages joined to learn the prized skill of weaving sticky rice baskets — an item well-used and well-loved by Isaan communities.  These weaving skills can be applied further to handbags and other items, or can be used by individuals to continue weaving baskets for personal use or sale locally.

Though each personal story of the fourteen trainees is important, there were two young women that brought particularly special stories to the community.  One young woman returned from Bangkok for the training, holding on to the hope that she might be able to return to the village to care for her aging grandparents while still being able to generate some income for her family. The second young woman, eight months pregnant, is hoping to find employment that can keep her with her young one.

Grateful for the birth of this new hope, and a small but significant breakthrough in Isaan economic development.