DEPDC Self Sufficiency Store Update, March 2008
By DEPDC - , March 18, 2008 12:58 PM
We are steadily increasing donations for the construction of the DEPDC Self Sufficiency Store – thank you for your donations and support. While we still don’t have enough funds to begin construction, our vocational students are laying the groundwork for opening the store and continuing their vocational activities.
Vocational training for youth
Our vocational training program for Half Day School graduates is going quite well.
DEPDC noticed that some of the Half Day School students were graduating from sixth grade and then working in the market. Several were facing pressure from their families to earn money. This group of 14 girls currently enrolled in the vocational program are at high risk for entering the sex trade. The girls, now in their early teenage years, are facing pressure to make “easy money” for the family and many families see sex work as a viable option. Other exploitative forms of labor are also real risks for this target group. The children did not, however, qualify for the DEP program. To keep these children in school, DEPDC introduced a vocational training program and integrated the government’s non-formal education curriculum. DEPDC saw this as a cost effective way to provide a more promising future for this group of teenagers working in the market. The price of non-formal education for one child is only about 1000 baht ($29.50) per term, including books and uniforms. DEPDC also signed contracts with the students and parents to commit to this program for three years, through ninth grade.
Several of the vocational students have already expressed a need to work in Bangkok. Education is DEPDC’s strategy to keep them safe. DEPDC has met with the parents two or three times, depending on the case, because some of the children want to leave the program. DEPDC has stressed the importance of education with parents, as well as the importance of parental support because the children feel pressure to earn money for fashionable items. About 30% of the vocational students already plan to use their skills as a career.
Vocational groups for adults
In 2008, DEPDC will launch five new community vocational groups to provide sustainable economic opportunities for members of the Mae Sai community. In September 2006, DEPDC’s Community Learning Center held a training session for community members on how to make organic dish soap. A year later, 10 community women have turned this skill into a flourishing business. After taking the course, the women decided to take a risk with their own business, so they set up shop at the village elder’s house. Each woman contributed 100 baht of her own seed money, and they bought the equipment and supplies they needed. They then gave out free supplies to the whole village and asked for feedback on their product’s foam, cleaning ability, and scent. Village members used the soap and offered their input. The women then took the suggestions and went back to work, carefully re-calibrating their formula. When they had it just right, they started selling their product to the community. They carefully priced the soap lower than that of the local superstore and surrounding markets to be competitive.
They decided to sell the product out of the village leader’s house and bring it to any local village events both as a gift to the host and for sale. These strategies proved very strong marketing tools, and the women now have a full monopoly on their village soap market. Village members are actually looked down upon for buying any other type of soap. And why would they? Organic dish soap that comes in strawberry and lemon scent, made right next door! This project has proved so successful that the women are trying to invest money in auto-mixers so they can expand and supply surrounding villages. Another village has even caught onto the idea and is trying to copy their business using shampoo.
This year, the dish soap group will train another village group to make the same product. DEPDC also plans to launch vocational groups making chili dips (a very popular snack), bamboo household items, sewing, and organic agriculture. The Self Sufficiency Store will provide a central marketplace for their goods and offer practice in selling, marketing, and business skills.
These activities show the progress of DEPDC’s vocational activities for children and adults who will benefit from the Self Sufficiency Store. Your support to make the Store a reality is extremely appreciated.