Guest post by Kelly Abeln*
Read more about Whole Planet Foundation here!
After a 24 hour journey from Minneapolis to Bangkok, I meet up with my travel companions. This group consisted of Whole Planet Foundation (WPF) employees and employees of other companies who contribute to WPF. After a little sightseeing in Bangkok, we boarded an overnight train to the Surin region of Thailand. We started our day in Surin at a village bank house to learn about how Small Enterprise Development works as a microfinancer–a form of financial services for entrepreneurs and small businesses lacking access to banking and related services. We then drove deeper into Surin to meet with microloan recipients in their villages.
The first village we visited makes beaded handicrafts that they sell as souvenirs in Bangkok. Microloans helped these entrepreneurs get their small business started.
The community was extremely welcoming to our group, and even gave us a demonstration of how they craft their intricate beaded objects.
After chatting with the women through an interpreter and getting the chance to browse and purchase their handicrafts —we were served a delicious traditional lunch of tea, fruit, veggies and various forms of rice.
The generosity and hospitality of the community to a strange group of outsiders who showed up in mini-vans was very heartwarming and inspiring. Although the village was very modest compared to western standards, the community’s attitude was prosperous and joyous.
The next village we visited had been involved in microcredit for over a decade. Pictured above, from left to right, are 3 of the business women, an Small Enterprise Development (SED) employee and our translator. Their business is creating and selling woven silk fabrics. Many women from the village were involved with the complex fabric production. The women told us how much smoother their business operated with the help of SED. It was amazing to see how combining their hard work and the systems set up by microcredit helped their community flourish.
We were treated to a weaving demo and marveled at the beautiful fabrics they created. We left with an understanding of the hard work they put into their business and the pride they take from it.
Read more about the trip in Part two!
*Kelly Abeln is a graphic designer at Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day. She had the opportunity to see Whole Planet Foundation’s impact firsthand on a trip to the Surin region of Thailand.