Mai Vietnamese Handicrafts
Mai Vietnamese Handicrafts was founded in 1991 by a small group of social workers in the efforts to help poor and neglected children who could not afford to attend school in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Mai provided work for the youths and encouraged them to attend the informal literacy classes which the organisation offered. Nowadays, school is free to all Vietnamese children, so Mai now provides work for the mothers and older sisters of these children, boosting the family income, independence and overall well-being.
Mai has now also become an income generating and educational project for poor and disadvantaged women in South Vietnam. As a respected member of the World Fair-trade Organisation, Mai focuses on the importance of tying social development to economic self-reliance. In order to promote financial independence amongst disadvantaged families and ethnic minorities, the organisation offers employment and training. Functioning as a trading agent, Mai also works with international clients to ensure the conditioning, trading and shipping of their artisan’s products. Through active product development and by selling Vietnamese handicraft products to export and local markets, Mai has established itself as the primary marketing agent for neglected women in rural areas.
Today, Mai provides assistance to approximately 26 producer groups, and over 1,000 artisans, 70% of whom are women. The artisans are paid well – about twice the Vietnamese average income – and receive training in quality control, marketing and export procedures. Provided with social and health insurance, these artisans are treated fairly with greater opportunities to grow as artisans and community members, and now have the chance to apply for scholarship funds. Mai strives to provide employment and support for as many people as possible, and achieve this through having positions suitable for any member of the community, with tasks from producing the products themselves, marketing the products right through to packing and shipping the product.
The profits made by the organisation contribute to various development activities for the communities of their artisans, including clean water projects, vocational training equipment purchases and teacher wage subsidies. As a significant advocate for environmental sustainability, Mai collects waste materials and work to incorporate the recycled goods into their products. The paper bowls from Mai’s product range are a perfect example of some of the eye-catching and practical products which the artisan’s produce from recycled goods. These bowls are crafted by rolling old posters into flat strips, dipping them into glue and hanging them to dry, with the dried strips then being artistically coiled into a bowl form.
The creation of Mai’s products allows Vietnamese artisans to continue passing traditional techniques from generation to generation, while still being flexible to adapt their products to met modern day market needs.