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Story and photo by: Thailand Lahu Baptist Convention,
Heifer Thailand Project Partner

Mrs. Matha Chaichawanakorn, 39, lives in Pa Yang Lahu ethnic village in Mae Fah Luang district, Chiang Rai province, Thailand. She lives with her husband, Mr. David Chaichawanakorn, and two children. One of their sons died as a teenager.

In the past, the family farmed and raised livestock, but their animals were unhealthy and the yield low. They also worked as day laborers for a small wage of 20–30 Baht, or $.70-$1, per day, which was barely enough to meet their needs.

In 1987, when a private organization promoted coffee plantations in the area, they adapted their farm to grow coffee. Although selling coffee beans generated a decent income, the family spent most of their earnings on food and other necessities.

In 2009, Heifer Thailand and Thailand Lahu Baptist Convention collaborated to implement the Improving Quality of Life and Integrated Holistic Development Project in Pa Yang village. Matha decided to join.

As project participants, Matha and other Self-Help Group (SHG) members received a series of trainings on topics such as Values-Based Holistic Community Development (VBHCD), Heifer's 12 Cornerstones for Just and Sustainable Development, animal management, pig feed formulation, and gender training. She received three piglets and applied her new livestock management knowledge so well that she generated a significant income from her three pigs.

In addition to improving her family's living conditions, becoming a project participant also boosted Matha's self-confidence. She was once shy and unable to speak in front of a group, but now she is comfortable speaking in public.

Along with livestock activities and capacity building, the SHG formed a savings group and elected Matha bookkeeper.

Her family grows a kitchen garden, which reduces the family's food expenses. They no longer rely on the mobile grocery shop. With a smile and determination, she shared, "I feel good about myself, that I've become more confident and can share my knowledge with others. I also share pig raising knowledge with my husband so he can help me look after the animals. Moreover, I feel happier because my family has a secure fund for the future."

Want to help more families in Thailand like the Chaichawanakorns move out of poverty and into self-reliance? Contribute to our Empowering Marginalized Communities Project and help fund our work with ethnic minority groups in the mountains of northern and western Thailand.

Author

Heifer International

Heifer International is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization working with communities to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth.