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Published: January 15th 2009
THE ORIGINAL LIFESTART FOUNDATION WOMENS GROUP
Affectionately known as the "Sweetheart Group"
How it all Started … News from January 2009…
It is with great excitement that I write this blog. It has been a long held dream of mine and many of the disabled women that Lifestart Foundation helps, to open the first not for profit shop in Hoi An. In December 2008 I was fortunate to be in a position to rent a fabulous shop and work space for the women.
A small group of local women living with challenging disabilities in the Hoi An area joined together with Lifestart Foundation to form a special workshop. This workshop focuses on creating a small line of beautiful creative arts and crafts. It is already a huge success with the bonds that have formed through friendship, kindness, support and understanding. We now hope to continue the success financially. The entire proceeds from these products go directly to these special women to help provide them with a sustainable income and sense of independence.
The women initially met for four weeks of training in March 2008 under the direction of Sherry Berger
to develop skills and workshop products with a view to going into a trial production. Initially the women met two
afternoons per week making a range of cards, wine bottle covers and bamboo vases that are for sale. In addition some individual members of the group are producing craft goods at home to be sold alongside the workshop items. These include scarves made by Hanh
and shoulder bags by Lieu.
With the help of a group of supporters from Melbourne who have kindly offered to pay the first six month’s rent on the shop the doors are open and we are ready for business. A Melbourne based group of women grow and sell potted plants and homemade goodies at local markets in Victoria, Australia. They then donate the proceeds to the Lifestart Foundation women’s group in Hoi An and this money is paying the rent on the Viettown shop.
The initial product lines included mosaic cards, dove cards, embroidered cards, bamboo vases, crocheted scarves, wine bottle covers and shoulder bags.
Where we are now … News from June 2011…
The workshop began as a place for disabled women. We have realised the need for the workshop to expand and be inclusive rather than exclusive. We now welcome those with and without disabilities, young and old,
male and female. There are now 22 members at the workshop and we are currently interviewing more potential members.
We have moved to larger, more central, premises at 77 Phan Chu Trinh Street
which has allowed for expansion in product range, customer numbers and workshop members.
Our product range now includes Hoi An Lanterns (in mini and large sizes made of vintage looking fabrics or Vietnamese silk), table lamps, sock creatures shaped as monkeys, elephants, rabbits, dogs and smiley monsters, funky woolen bracelets, recycled paper jewellery (bracelets, earrings and necklaces), good fortune journals, recycled magazine notebooks, a wider range of cards, funky egg hats, recycled denim bags, exclusive chopstick vases, cotton and silk hair accessories, recycled paper coasters, cushion covers, vintage button rings and brooches, hand-painted T-shirts and denim bags. You can find out more about our product range for delivery overseas on our online store
Since moving to the new shop in May 2011 we have introduced a new way to ensure the long term sustainability of the workshop by introducing a sustainability charge on each item sold. This is an exciting development as it means that eventually the workshop will be supporting itself. Currently the sales are covering half of
the running costs of the shop and we hope that within one more year it will be completely self-sufficient. This relies on us doubling sales over the next year which we are hoping to do through a mixture of retail sales, wholesale orders and our online store.
We have also been looking at ways we can support our other projects in a longer term sustainable way. These include the launch of our lantern making and art classes in Hoi An
and the development of a natural body product range to be produced in Vietnam. (Watch this space for more news!)
If you have visited the Lifestart Foundation Workshop we would love it if you could leave a review on Tripadvisor
to encourage more new customers.
Lots of Love from Karen. www.lifestartfoundation.org.au
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There is also a video of some of our workshop members available on YouTube
and a video made
in 2008 which shows the people I met in the early stages of our disability support project.
Sherry and also E have done blogs on their experience of volunteering at the Lifestart Foundation
EARLY WORKSHOP TRAINING DAY
There is always time for a laugh.
Workshop in Hoi An. These are linked below. Why Vietnam Rocks: E's Experience as a Product Trainer Sherry Berger: A Dream Volunteer
The stories of some of our workshop members are shown on my other blogs which are linked below. Hanh: What a Difference a Three Wheel Motorbike Makes! Luong: The Lovely Miss Luong's Story Trang: Fearful & Alone No Longer Hoa: Independence at Last Nguyen: Living with a Broken Heart Nghe: Nghe's Story Hai and Truong: Lantern Makers Xuyen: 60 Years Old and Her First Motorbike! Ngung's Story Mai - An Aspiring Artist Vinh - A New Member at the Lifestart Foundation Workshop
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