Mrs. Men lives with her family of five in Luc Nam District, Bac Giang Province, Vietnam. Her family’s income generation activities are now very effective, which has greatly improved their living quality and has helped them provide a good education for their children. But it was not always this way.
Mrs. Men joined a YWAM Mercy Opportunity Team in September 2011. Opportunity Teams are made up of people from families who are below, or near, the poverty line. The teams provide training, opportunity, and support to empower members to improve their own situations together.
When Men’s family joined, their family was very typical of families in this location, and life was very difficult. Their main income was from farming 1800 square meters of rice paddy field. They did not dare to invest in animal breeding or try other crops as they had no money and lacked understanding about how to do this. Mrs. Men’s husband had to look for work in another province far from home to have money to survive.
As a member of an Opportunity Team, Mrs. Men had the chance to participate in many training courses about financial management, animal breeding and cultivation.
In November 2011, Mrs. Men was the first one voted to receive an eight-month old calf worth 8 million dong (US$400) from her Opportunity Team. Because they were the first, she and her family were very nervous. However, with the support and encouragement of the staff and community leaders, and with additional training courses on cow raising, they quickly gained confidence.
Mrs. Men soon realized that her family had a lot of potential to improve their income. She has since invested in growing pineapple and herbs which now provides a relatively stable income for her family every year.
By April 2013, her family had returned the first calf that her cow produced back to the cowbank for another family to receive. Up till now, her cow has produced six more calves. She sold them each for about 15 million VND (US$750). Between the cows, pineapple, and herb planting, she earns an average of 120 million VND per year (US$6,000) up from 30 million VND (US$1327). Her family’s living conditions have improved remarkably and by 2014, her family had escaped from poverty.
By participating in the Opportunity Team, her family not only had the opportunity to improve their economic situation but also to improve their awareness and knowledge in caring for and educating their children. This was achieved through training courses, conferences, and sharing experiences with others.
After six years of participating in the Opportunity Team, Mrs. Men’s household income is relatively stable. Mr. Son, Men’s husband, no longer has to work as a hired laborer far from home. Now they work together in their own hometown. They are also more focused on their children’s development and are encouraging their children to study to the best of their ability with the hope they will be able to attend University. This is paying off as now their eldest daughter is studying abroad in Korea.
Mrs. Men has become more confident in communicating with others and regularly shares her skills and knowledge with her neighbors and other members of the community. In fact, she speaks to potential Opportunity Team members who are often hesitant to get involved. Her enthusiasm and success has encouraged many others to take the risk.
Mrs. Men’s family is just one of many successful households who took advantage of an opportunity to improve their living conditions. These families are smart, hardworking, and want to provide a better life for their children. YWAM Mercy Vietnam will continue to form Opportunity Teams so many others can create a better life for themselves and their children.