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I wanna hold your hand

This autumn, I am in Bhutan to teach the alphabets from A to Z as part of the I CAN FLY Project (see below)
 
When pencils and papers are handed out, a muffled groan arose from the 33 new ANA weavers! And when I write on the white board the first letter - A - more murmurs of agony. Hmmm...This is harder than I thought!
So, I go to one of my sisters, kneel down beside her. I held her hand in mine as she grasps a pencil for the first time. Literally hand-in-hand we scrawled A shakily on paper. 
 
I lost count of how many hands I grasped in mine, as we cross the threshold of illiteracy to the letter A for the first time on the morning of 23 Oct 2017. 
 
And again, we grimaced as we advanced towards C D E. We all groaned at G. A big sigh of relief at “I” and H was another small reprieve. And gasped in dismay at the impossible letter M. 
But do you know which letter nearly slay us? The letter S. That curvy looping! They stare in stupor silence as I snake out S over and over on the board. Half defeated, I call for a tea break. 

Fortified by tea and biscuits, we now feel the letter S is friendlier. I make it look more like a 5 with angles. Conquering S like superwoman on steroids, it was easier to get everyone to Z from there. Yay!
 
I felt like I can fly to the moon when they hold up their homework of very cute handwritten A to Z. Oh Ana, I wanna hold your hand - again!

Written by Quin Thong, founder of ANA by Karma (hope@anabykarma.com)
I CAN FLY is a new project under trial with ANA weavers, where we preserve the Bhutanese traditional waist belt weaving techniques by introducing a new use - a luggage belt for global travellers. Connecting you to Bhutan weavers with an app, you can design your luggage belt by adding your name, pattern and colour.



South China Morning Post Feature - By Kylie Knott

Happiness of its citizens, not GDP, is Bhutan’s admirable way of measuring prosperity. But for many in the landlocked Himalayan kingdom, making a living is their greatest challenge.

Hong Kong accountant Quin Thong set out to change that after a 2014 visit to the country, when she met a village housewife who was also a skilled weaver. Starting out with one weaver and eight scarves, Quin turned to her social-media network to find buyers for the handmade pieces.

The response was overwhelming and inspired Quin to set up ANA by Karma, a social enterprise that supports women artisans by helping them access the global marketplace and become financially independent.

Quin Thong with weavers in Radhi, Bhutan.

“I went to Bhutan for a holiday and, like every traveller, I brought home photos and presents,” says Quin. “What I didn’t know I’d bring home was a whole village of women weavers and children.

“I didn’t go to Bhutan ‘to save the world’. But a small act of kindness for one woman weaver today has blossomed into ANA by Karma, lifting over 70 women out of poverty into a world of business.”

Quin Thong with young Bhutanese monks.

Net proceeds from scarf sales are ploughed back into the community, including organising photography workshops for the children. More than 100 youngsters have benefited since 2015.

“Teaching less-privileged children photography skills is equipping them for a future that is more dependent on images to communicate,” says Quin – think Instagram. “It also helps them build confidence to interact with others.”

Photos taken by children supported by ANA by Karma will be shown at the “Bhutan Happiness” exhibition, at DrawGraphy, on June 25.

On June 25, a one-day exhibition titled “Bhutan Happiness”, at DrawGraphy, in Kennedy Town, timed to coincide with the third anniversary of ANA by Karma, will showcase the work of the young snappers. Weaver Pema Choden, once an illiterate housewife, now chief executive of ANA By Karma’s Bhutan operations, will attend with her children.

Article adapted from - http://www.scmp.com/magazines/post-magazine/short-reads/article/2098494/hong-kong-accountant-who-transforming-lives

 




From Zero to CEO - the inspiring story of the rise of a homemaker to become Bhutan CEO of Ana by Karma

One year ago Pema Choden is a Bhutanese homemaker, looking after her four children and husband. A housewife when she joined our Jan 2015 Ana by Karma Weavers Workshop in Thimphu, she became our certified Bhutan Scarf weaver soon after. 10 months later in Nov 2015, our founder Quin Thong met her with other weaver sisters.Though Pema spoke not a word, her smile and gentleness made Quin took notice of her.

By Jan 2016, she was promoted to be our Happy Scarf supervisor - working to coordinate and quality control the work of other weavers in Bhutan. And since then - her career is ever on the rise. Pema even had two opportunities to speak to the public about her rise from homemaker to become a business woman.

In November 2016, Pema is promoted to be our CEO in Bhutan for Ana by Karma, taking care of all the weavers and the organisation of the development activities such as kids' financial literacy and photography events. 

Congratulations Pema. We are proud of you.

This is truly a story of women empowerment. 

Ana by Karma spreads happiness from Bhutan to the world, one Happy Scarf at a time