Meet the people of Tin Keo, including the head weaver at our women’s cooperative, in the video above—and learn how our partnership has improved their quality of life in a meaningful, sustainable way.

The small community of Tin Keo makes its living by farming rice, corn, and bananas; tending livestock; and weaving. To help support the community’s basic needs, Grand Circle Foundation has funded community toilets, a water well, water tank and reservoir, and paved a sidewalk. But we realized we needed to help the village become more self-sufficient.

Located in the North Luang Prabang Valley of Laos, this community of less than 500 people struggled to earn a living. Many families subsist on less than $2 a day, so we wanted to support a means of earning income while also offering something of nutritional value.

Working with the village leader, we identified ten families whom we would help set up with a chicken farm. We then contracted a local poultry specialist to help stock the farm with 40 free range chickens and purchase the feed for the first stage of the project. We make sure that projects such as this have clear milestones, and we set six months to a year as the timeframe for raising chickens that were ready to sell. In the meantime, the chickens would lay eggs both for consumption and to replenish the stock. Within a few months, the poultry population had grown by 15%, allowing the villagers to continue funding the poultry specialist.

The project was so successful that the ten families involved were able not only to generate income from the project but also to share their success by giving chicks to other families in the village. The poultry project was not the end of Grand Circle Foundation’s involvement with Tin Keo Village. We realized that the women of the village had another issue: loneliness. Most of the women of the village took care of their children and helped their husbands with rice farming, but once the children went off to school, there was often no one to talk to, as their husbands often went off to the city to earn additional income.

We also recognized that most of the women spent some time weaving—mostly at home, alone. To harness that entrepreneurial spirit and provide women with a venue to come together for companionship—and generate income—the Foundation established a weaving center in the village. Now, the women improve their skills by exchanging patterns and ideas, challenge themselves by learning new techniques, and simply enjoy each other’s company. At the same time, they also earn $70-$80 a month by selling their textiles to visitors and to a middleman in the city.