Manon Maurer, Mary Grace Lewis
After Bangkok, we headed to Cabbages and Condoms Resort in Buriram. We spent two days there, visiting a few different villages where we were spoken to about the different community projects and the village sustainability models. We also spent an afternoon at the Pattana school which is credited as one of Mechai’s most successful projects. We met students from 7th-12th grade at the Pattana school and had the opportunity to tour the campus, learning about the ways that the school prepares students with skills to later apply to their own communities.
The three villages we visited were improved with the help of the Population Development Association (PDA), a non-profit run and supported by Mechai. The villages would get microloans or other forms of support from the PDA to help them build self-sustaining profitable businesses. The profit that the villages procured were then used to uplift the village communities and further help other villages in the surrounding areas. Mechai’s model is unique in that it empowers the communities to uplift themselves, rather than continuing to rely on the NGO. Additionally, villages are encouraged to cooperate with each other and support each other. The second village focused on water storage and treatment and then was able to share these developments with other villages. The first village focused on agriculture, and was able to grow, produce, and sell herbal medicines. The third village raised silk worms and harvested the silk to produce high end silk products. Each village was able to use Mechai’s models of development to find a niche market or product and make money to empower the citizens and help the surrounding communities.
The Pattana school worked similarly. Students and their families were able to pay for the school by doing community service, allowing for poorer students to still get an education while supporting their surrounding communities. Students were taught skills that they’d later be able to apply to their own villages to better them and help lift their families and communities out of poverty. Students learned about business building, development and sustainability rather than memorization and regurgitation of facts. The PDA’s initial investment in the school paid off by empowering students through education and allowing those students to continue on to empower their hometowns and populations in the surrounding areas.