Mending Communities Initiative
About “Mending Communities One Stitch at a Time” Initiative
Mending Communities Initiative was conceived from our desire and need to provide a sustainable solution to poverty. Having fed and helped the poorest of Vietnam’s communities for the past 10 years, FHF has learned that the most effective way for us to fight poverty is to empower impoverished communities to become self-reliant through skill development and gaining access to the world’s market. In essence, the “Mending Communities One Stitch at a Time” Initiative is based on our belief that if you give a man a fish you feed him for a day, but if you teach him how to fish you feed him for a lifetime.
Under this principle of empowerment and self-reliance, we decided to collaborate with Fashion for Freedom, a social enterprise, to launch “Mending Communities One Stitch at a Time” Initiative. We recognize that although poor and lacking in many resources, the Vietnamese people do not lack talent or skills. This Initiative will harness local skills in embroidery, needlecraft, and other artisanship; furthermore, we will connect village artisans to markets of the world by promoting and selling their creations through an e-commerce platform.
We recognize that simply teaching a man how to fish does not guarantee that he will have something to eat IF he lacks the fishing rod or if the lake is empty. We go beyond teaching someone a trade; we ensure that their skills go toward creating the right product for the right market. We then work with the community to continue to develop resources to sustain the business model. Further, we understand that the poorest communities commonly have the highest rates of domestic abuse in which the incomes of these victims are often taken by their husbands or their resident in-laws. In anticipation of such incidences, we will collaborate with other funding agencies to create a “Match Savings” program that will match dollar-for-dollar the amount that participants put away into savings, thus encouraging artisans to save. Finally, our Initiative will promote cultural preservation by designing products that are uniquely Vietnamese, with the traditional ao dai as the first product we will launch.
Key Components of the Initiative:
- Creating a sustainable business model- It is made sure that the product is matched up with the right market so that the products are in demand in the first place. Then a business model is generated for this product.
- Training the trainers- The Train the Trainer program trains a set of artisan teachers who are then responsible for training the employees of the businesses.
- Incentivizing quality workmanship- The workers are financially rewarded for each product that meets the desired quality standard.
- Promoting the products in online marketplaces- This program connects the businesses directly with online marketplaces so that they have global exposure.
- Encouraging financial savings- The Match Savings Program works with a funding organization so that every dollar from the artisan’s income put into a savings account is matched by another dollar put into the savings account. This money is required to stay in the savings account for at least a year, and this program instills the value of saving money into the community.
- Upholding Vietnamese culture- All products made are distinctively Vietnamese.
- Sponsoring entrepreneurship- The money saved through the Match Savings Program is then used for micro-lending to promising program graduates who intend on starting their own businesses.