Teaching to live and earn
By Chow Yin Shan
Despite being a chartered accountant, Quin Thong has proven that she does more than crunching the numbers.
The Malaysian, who has been based in Hong Kong since 1988, started “Ana by Karma”, a project which helps poor weavers in Bhutan improve their lives.
Her story began two years ago when she visited Bhutan for the second time and met Karma Yangchi, a weaver whom she had previously encountered during a 2003 visit.
Quin, a woman of compassion, discovered that the weaver was struggling to make ends meet then.
So, she offered US$200 (Approx Nu 13,000) to Karma so that she could buy a sewing machine and produce items like bags and pillow cases for sale.
Karma turned her down. Instead, she asked Quin to help her sell her scarves.
Quin posted photographs of the scarves on Facebook and overnight, over 40 orders came in. In two weeks, 100 were sold. This rose to 1,000 within four months.
“When I put the money in Karma’s hands, she burst into tears,” she recounted.
That encounter sparked a social enterprise that transformed the lives of a community of Bhutanese weavers.
Their success put the entire village to work, giving rise to “Ana by Karma”.
In a mere 18 months after the first batch of scarves were sold, they earned 34 years worth of income for the women, who previously had none.
“Ana by Karma gave them pride and dignity,” said Quin.
(In the eastern Bhutanese language, Ana means sister.)
Quin’s love for the community did not end there.
For many years, the Kuala Lumpur-born accountant volunteered her time to teach financial literacy in universities.
She is doing something similar in Bhutan now.
“Our weavers are mostly illiterate. They usually lack the skills and knowledge to manage money.
“By teaching them financial literacy, whatever money they earn can be used wisely,” said Quin, who works with a major consulting firm which offers corporate solutions.
Despite her impressive resume, Quin insisted that she was merely a “simple girl” who hoped to encourage others to help the less privileged.