Women’s Business School of Textile Arts is the latest (2018/19) of a series of independent aid programs initiated in northern Laos during the past decade by two veteran Australian journalists Trish Clark (77) and Iain Finlay (84). Previous projects, funded with donations largely from Australia, include building a road to a remote village (2012/13), a series of 16 large culvert drains along a ten-kilometre stretch of a connecting road (2014), building a primary school for a second extremely impoverished village (2015), introducing sustainable pig and buffalo
farming projects in one village (2016), building a 68-bed dormitory in a third village (2017) and now (2018/19) launching a Textile Arts School for farming women in the District Centre of Muang Nan, Luang Prabang Province.
More details of these previous projects can be seen here:
As mentioned elsewhere in this site…and it could be on every page, as far as we’re concerned, the person central to the success, over the past eight years or so, of the various projects described here and, more particularly now, the Women’s Business Textile Art School, is 28-year-old, village-born, city-educated Chanthy
Sisombuth. Chanthy, who also speaks excellent English, is married to Oan, a travel agent who is the same age, and they have a young son called Banjo (they asked us to name him).
As Project Manager of the School, Chanthy makes sure everything happens… that cotton and materials are available, that salaries are paid, equipment maintained and, most importantly…the students and teachers are happy…but best of all... he has a great sense of humour.
The School of Textile Arts project is a small, but important step in creating an opportunity for farming women to study the traditional village crafts of weaving and embroidery…skills which are in many ways under threat as society becomes more urbanized and the importance of gaining a better education takes precedence over these traditional arts. The women attending the first semesters of the school so far are from four different Lao ethnicities; Lao Loum, Hmong, Khmu and Yao Mien and aged between 18 and 45.
The School was opened in September 2018 in a converted and renovated shophouse, providing 2nd floor sleeping accommodation (if required) for four teachers and eight students, and a large ground-floor working space with four large floor looms and other equipment for the teaching and study of weaving and embroidery. There are two teachers of embroidery and two teaching weaving.
Students enroll for a 16-week semester in which half of them study weaving and half embroidery for the first 8 weeks, changing roles half-way through the course. There are two of these 16-week courses in a year…from February to the end of May and from September to the end of December.
The teachers are paid a salary and the students are also paid a small bursary of US$5 a day to enable them to leave their normal farming duties without major financial stress. During the three month period of the rainy season, the school provides free access to its facilities for former students to work on producing their own works for sale.
The opening of the school and its initial operation during the first two semesters brought an offer from the Lao Department of Education…if the school operates successfully for a couple of years…of a piece of land in the District Centre for the construction and establishment of a purpose-built School of Textile Arts building would be provided.
It now remains for us to make a success of the school over the next year or so, in which endeavor you can almost certainly help by checking here:
Coinciding with this offer, Emma Sommerville, an architectural student at Bond University in southern Queensland, has created a design for such a building on the suggested site as her Masters Degree Thesis.
In the meantime, you can check out the other 'ABOUT' links , either from the top menu or from here: