Jacqueline Lee is an InTheField Traveler with GlobalGiving who is visiting our partners’ projects throughout Southeast Asia. Her “Postcard” from the visit in Thailand:
On June 13, I met with Step Ahead Founder, John, at the main office near a slum community of Bangkok, Khlong Toei. After meeting staff and seeing the gorgeous purses that women are able to make with Step Ahead in order to earn income, we went into the community to meet those receiving mentoring, training, and microloans. Additionally, Step Ahead hosts basketball and event days for local youth.
Working through local districts, Step Ahead first hosted meetings to reach out to the community. In the slums, people either live in tall government projects that have about 250 rooms and about 1500 people per building or they live in shacks between buildings through winding alleys. These homes are made from bits and pieces of scrap metals and wood all stacked on top and in between each other.
Walking through Khlong Toei, John explained that the situation is much better than it was before. A few years ago I would have seen sewage-filled alleys. The first Step Ahead micro-entrepreneur we came across was at her stand selling confectionary items. She said she uses the loans to buy “stuff to sell”. Another woman has a restaurant serving food through a window facing the alley. Finally, we came to a family business close to a pond turned into a sewage and trash dump. Outside of their home were bathtubs filled with water and chickens’ feet. This family processes chicken feet to be sold at the market. The family told us that the helpers (who come to de-bone the feet) and the buyers have not been coming as regularly – and they did not know why. One member of the family was a single dad of 3 kids.
We continued to walk through the community meeting local citizens and observing their daily lives. Because of the support of Step Ahead the local citizens can continue to run their businesses and not have to go to loan sharks that charge high interest rates while emotionally and physically bullying their loaners if money is not repaid back on time.
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