Bernard Kervyn remembers:
The adventure Mekong Quilts began in 2001. I was surprised to see Thanh spend endless hours on quilts (also called patchworks), her hobby. Imagine some new designs, cut, sew ...
But my astonishment gave way to reflection: why not create jobs for the villages! Thanh then trained several women while Carla, a friend in Saigon, began selling the quilts. Thus was born Vietnam Quilts. It later became Mekong Quilts, when shops were opened in Cambodia and production started in Svay Rieng, in 2009.
The concept was then extended with the launch of Mekong Creations. This 2 nd social enterprise proposes products made from raw materials available locally: water hyacinth, bamboo, paper mache, etc. More than 200 women have a very rewarding and remunerative employment, independent from seasons and climatic changes, or from agricultural prices. They stay close to their children and earn additional income. Thousands of families are well out of serious poverty.
Many women would love to join them, but production depends on the sales: 5 stores, a website for online sales (mekong-plus.com) and wholesale sales for some commercial signs (eg. Nature & Découvertes, Terre d'Oc).
The Khmer women also make quilts, in more difficult conditions -there is no electricity thus no light after 5pm. They work more slowly but are extremely thorough. The quality sometimes exceeds that of quilts made by their Vietnamese colleagues. What a long way when you see these women sitting in groups, on mats in the shade but in the scorching heat of Rumdoul. Cambodia is a country where it is so dry and hot in Summer.
For 80% of households in Rumdoul (Cambodia), at least one adult will migrate for 4-6 months, to Phnom Penh or to another far away province, looking for work. When they can join the quilters, or the papier-mâché group, the craftswomen can stay with their children. The most skilled women earn even more than those working in factories far from the village.