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NEWS / BLOG

This is where we’ll try to keep you up-to-date with everything that’s happened, is happening, or will be happening shortly with the Women’s Business Project. It will be up-dated every month.

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We are heading off to Laos for the opening of the 3rd Semester of the Women’s Business Textile Arts School… from 2nd September to the end of December.

Fortunately the school has recovered from the effects of big flood which hit Muang Nan township in late July and damaged the looms and some of the equipment in the school. Its all cleaned up with the looms now in working order again.

There are now 8 new students ready to start on this coming Monday…plus the four original teachers. We’re looking forward to meeting them all in a few days time.



We are presently working on ways for these new students, plus the 16 previous students to make use of their newly acquired talents in weaving and embroidery…by channelling it all into something productive and beneficial to them. There’s quite a lot happening.

We’ve mentioned the offer from the Provincial Government of a piece of land in the district centre of Muang Nan… if we make a success of the first couple of years…which so far is happening.


We want to follow up on this offer and perhaps apply a bit of moral pressure to make this a firmer commitment.

We also have Emma Sommerville’s Master’s Thesis designs for a permanent, purpose-built Textile Arts School which we’re hoping to build on the government’s suggested site. We have the designs and drawings with us to show the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism.




We are also now working with Kristina Sondstrum, who is moving her former fabric design workshop and studio from 

Melbourne to Byron Bay to work with textile designer Egle Petrauskaite.





(Kristina and Egle both wearing apparel made from textiles created at the Textile Arts School)


They have plans to make use of the fabrics and materials being produced by the women in Laos… both past and present students... to create apparel, accessories and decorative items that could be tailor-made for sale here in Australia. Kristina will be visiting Laos during October to see how the school works, meeting with the teachers and students and talking with them about the future possibilities of a Women’s Cooperative in producing a continuing flow of saleable products.

Also, during our planned stay of a couple of months in Laos, we will be seeking legal advice on what will be involved in setting up such a Women’s Cooperative venture (comprising the teachers, as well as former and present students) which could take over, and operate the school and its productions as their own business.

Finally, to more mundane, but immediate needs, we are hoping to inspire your generosity once more to help get us …and the school…through to the end of the year, when hopefully we’ll see some action from the Government on the land grant. You have funded the school for more than a full year to produce incredible and beautiful results…THANK YOU!!…as well as empowering 16 village women, aged from their late teens and mid-twenties up to 45, to become more independent, creative and  and productive members of their society, with a new sense of self-worth and new-found abilities to earn an income for their families that they did not have prior to attending the school. This is a huge achievement. And we feel as if we’re on the cusp of something even more exciting.

We’ve got some funds in the kitty, but not enough to see us through this 4-month semester (that is September…through to the end of December)…with the 8 new students. It costs us around A$3,000 a month, over a 4-month semester, to keep the school running. Thirteen people: 4 teachers, 8 students and Chanthy, the Project Manager, who is the glue that keeps it altogether, are covered by this amount. The rent is paid right through to July of next year, but we’re still going to need some help to get through this semester.

Xxx Trish & Iain

Over to you.


The Road To NaLin fund

COMMONWEALTH BANK OF AUSTRALIA

MURWILLUMBAH, NSW 2484 AUSTRALIA

BSB 062-580

ACCOUNT NUMBER 1029-7109

SWIFT CODE FOR DONORS 

OUTSIDE AUSTRALIA : CTBAAU25

G'day to you again…bringing ONLYl good news.

Here is Chanthy…graduating from his Lao Government Tourism Course in Luang Prabang last Friday….looking pretty spiffo and quite the man in his formal jacket…and feeling mighty chipper because he can now give up on the long inter-city weekend bus journeys…to and from Vientiane and Luang Prabang and back again.

He is pretty pleased with himself and how its all gone and the fact that he is now a legally certified Government Tour Guide. 

We have just spoken with him via WhatsApp. He  was about to begin the drive down from Luang Prabang to Muang Nan to check up on the WOMEN’S BUSINESS school …to sign up next semester’s students, to pay last semester’s students their end of course bonus and to make sure everything is spick and span, cleaned up after the flood, ready for the start of the new school year on September 2nd.

We are leaving Australia on the 30th August…so as to be there to welcome the new students…(I must remember to polish my sandals!)...and I just asked Chanthy to invite them all…as well as last semester’s students, whom we didn’t have a chance to meet, plus of course the teachers, to a celebratory luncheon on the Opening Day. We find we are very inspired and feeling ultra happy too! Bursting with plans and schemes.

Part of this is because we know we will also be getting together with Banjo too again!…here’s today’s pic. of him…two years old in November, when his sibling is due, so confident and full of life…Oan and Chanthy plan for him to start Kindergarten next week. Aaaah! I find I am smiling…and I hope all this makes YOU smile too!





With HUGS….trish

We will of course be back in touch with you all as all this and more continues to unfold. Are we not each one of us extremely fortunate to be happily involved with life in this way!


Hello Everybody! An update…and a bit of duplication of the email sent out on July 21 about our road trip south to the nation's capital.

There were over a hundred people at the screening…and three mannequins again loaned by Phil Staub of General Pants…dressed up in an embroidery embossed jacket, a super Sondi and a Shrug. All the rest of the women’s creations were on display on Marty Rubensteins’ bamboo ladders…assembled by architect Emma Sommerville and her super-Mother, Cathy, who came up from the Victorian Grampians for the event.




great combination of Lao embroidery and western fashion

Because the screening took place in the brand-new swish ANU Film Club facilities we were not allowed to charge an entrance fee but donations plus sales of the women’s work reached over two thousand dollars. We would especially like to publicly thank Lone Thwaites and Brett Yeats who beat the drum and the bushes to promote the screening. We are dead ducks in Canberra, despite Iain having been born there (a very long time ago!)…and without their hard yakka we would have played to an empty house. So lets hear it for Lone and Brett. Heartwarming for us was that the screening spread the word aboutWOMEN’S BUSINESSand as always with a public event one can never anticipate where this word will land and take root. Numerous people spoke to us privately after the show and the Q&A session to express congratulations, thanks and their positive take on it all. The surprise for us was that despite the anticipated polite and understandable reserve of Canberra there were people there from the National Library and the National Gallery as well as media producers and philanthropists who openly expressed a warm emotional response to the story.  Probably best of all was that a cadre of EIGHT people from the Lao Embassy came along, including the Ambassador, Mr. Sisavath Inphachanh who gave Trish a hug! and took a selfie with her. Hard to explain to you the depth of what that shows. Since then Mr.Inphachanh has also written a letter expressing obviously heartfelt support for the Project. OK that’s a wrap of the screenings…. for a while at least.  And now for some photographs of the tremendously positive progress of the complete rebuild of the storm-destroyed Kindy at Koktum. THANK YOU,THANK YOU to everyone who has put in specifically towards this work.  THE NEW, SAFE, STRONG CLASSROOMS FOR THE THIRTY-FOUR KINDY STUDENTS IS ALMOST FINISHED.


New Kindy underway at koktum village

walls and roof done

Chanthy has been traveling home by overnight bus on Fridays from his Tourism Training course in Vientiane to spend time with Oan and Banjo as well as to get down to Koktum to keep an eye on progress with this building project. He then takes the overnight bus back down on Sundays to resume his weekday studies. Only another two weeks to go Chanthy! What a great fellow he is. And now we are pushing ahead with paperwork for possible funding grants as well as working on a scheme involving a young woman designer joining the team. But this is enough good news for you to digest in one hit. I don’t want to give you joy indigestion! We wish all of you in the Southern Hemisphere a Happy Winter…and remember when you may be tempted to complain about the chill mornings and evenings…in no time at all you will be tempted to complain instead about the hot nights! Back with news as it comes to hand….soonest. Walk with smiles …..trish