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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



Star Newspaper Malaysia featuring Ana by Karma Bhutan

Star News papers

http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2016/03/09/weaving-a-success-story/

Adapted from Star Newspapers:

PETALING JAYA: Despite being a chartered accountant, Quin SQ Thong has proven that she does more than crunching the numbers.

The Malaysian, who has been based in Hong Kong since 1998, started “Ana by Karma”, a project which helps illiterate weavers in Bhutan improve their lives.

Her story began two years ago when she visited Bhutan for the second time and met Karma, a weaver whom she had previously encountered during a 2003 visit.

Quin, a woman of compassion, discovered that the weaver was struggling to make ends meet then.

So, she offered US$200 (RM822) to Karma so that she could buy a sewing machine and produce items like bags and pillow cases for sale.

Karma turned her down. Instead, Quin helped Karma to sell her scarves.

Quin posted photographs of the scarves on Facebook and overnight, over 40 orders came in. In two weeks, 100 were sold. This rose to 1,000 within four months.

“When I put the money in Karma’s hands, she burst into tears,” she recounted, Karma being overwhelmed that this is the money she has earned with her own effort

That encounter sparked a social enterprise that transformed the lives of a community of Bhutanese weavers.

Their success put the entire village to work, giving rise to “Ana by Karma”. 

In less than18 months after the first batch of scarves were sold, they earned 34 years worth of income for the women, who previously had none.

“Ana by Karma gave them pride and dignity,” said Quin.

(In the eastern Bhutanese language, Ana means sister.)

Quin’s love for the community did not end there.

For many years, the Kuala Lumpur-born accountant volunteered her time to teach financial literacy to children, culminating to publishing a book with Oxford University Press for children to learn wealth management.

She is doing something similar in Bhutan now, for the women to learn financial literacy.

“Our weavers are mostly illiterate. They usually lack the skills and knowledge to manage money. This include learning foreign currency concepts, something that seemed complex to learn but Quin disclosed that she has a special way to teach even 7 year olds understand forex".

“By teaching them financial literacy, whatever money they earn can be used wisely,” said Quin, who works with a UK consulting firm which offers corporate solutions.

Despite her impressive resume, Quin insisted that she was merely a “simple girl” who hoped to encourage others to help the less privileged.

 

 

Mission of Ana by Karma - Spreading Happiness from Bhutan to the World. One scarf at at time.



Mermaids in Bhutan?

A kind rinpoche shared that Bhutanese people believe that there are "Tshomen" or mermaids. We asked how is it possible? Bhutan is land-locked, no sea. He tells us, "Our mermaids live in the serene lakes of Bhutan, they are the guardians of our earth."

Ahhh.

And so, we tasked our young photographers to take photos of the lake. They came back with fantastic photos, including this photo of Lake Tsho. One even caught the picture of the....er...?   

This is the Bhutan Scarf that is now named after the Bhutanese mermaids - Tshomen Scarf

Photo credit : Tashi Delma 18 year old, Paro is one of the 20 participants at the Weavers' Children Photography Workshop, organised by Ana by Karma team in November 2015 as a community development program. The children are aged 12 to 18, all of them offsprings of our weavers. Our next workshop is in April 2015. Please join us.

More photos by the teenage participants of the workshop are found in www.facebook.com/ana.kids.photography

One of our scarfs are named Tshomen Blue (view here) named after the mermaids of Bhutan.

 



Teach me to fish - the story of Bhutan weavers who yearns for financial independence

How we give makes a world of difference to the recipient.

With charity, the recipient gets a respite from life's harshness, but may create dependency.

In contrast, when we "give" with a clear mission to empower, a different story emerges. The recipient gets a ladder to progress in life. And with the same ladder, she can also help others to move up in life. 

Such is the mission of Ana by Karma for the Bhutanese weavers. We empower them by utilising their talent, and further equipping them with skills they need to continue climbing the ladder towards a brighter future.

We teach them to fish. 

Karma who was struggling not too long ago, today has not only overcome acute financial difficulties, but herself is a giver of hope. She has trained dozens of illiterate poor weavers, empowering them as she is empowered. This is the difference when one is empowered. The empowered is now teaching others to fish.

Spreading happiness from Bhutan to the world, one happy scarf at a time. 

 



T for Thank You - a Bhutan weaver's gratitude

Lately, more and more of our weavers are connecting in with our team at Ana by Karma. And today - we received a sweet note from one of them. 

All of our Bhutan weavers are encouraged to weave on a motif that represents them. This way, not only will the scarf be authentically unique, you can also check on our website (scroll under Weavers) to find out who made your scarf for you.

One of our new weavers who can write a little bit of English, shared that she has chosen the motif T. At first we thought it's because her name is Thukten. 

But No. She said she chose T as her motif as her way to say Thank You to her Ana and Ata (sisters and brothers all over the world) who encourage and support her to continue to make scarfs. 

Ahhhhh..so sweet.

Truly spreading happiness from Bhutan to the world, one scarf at a time. Our way of slow fashion is impactful