Introducing Mekong Quilts
In March last year, we visitied Mekong Quilts in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. HCMC, or Saigon is a hugely bustling, hot city in the South of Vietnam near the Mekong Delta. More Western in feel to the quieter, more stately capital of Hanoi in the North. Packed with history and the base of the North American Army during the Vietnam war (Or American War as it is of course known in Vietnam), Saigon draws more of a hedonistic crowd than Hanoi. It teems with backpackers and tourists and is distinctly tropical in feel despite the cathedrals and Bond Villain (Connery Era) architecture of the Reunification Palace. Fans of Graham Greene can visit many of the places mentioned in The Quiet America, a personal favourite.
We found our way to the flagship store of Mekong Quilts just off Le Loi Street on a very hot day. We were welcomed in and met by Trang Phan, an enthusiastic young woman with excellent English. She explained how the project was started by a group of ex-pats making quilts to send to each other in order to raise money for education, agriculture and microcredit projects to benefit disadvantaged local communities.
As the project took off, they then started to employ women in those same communities to make quilts and blankets and then helped them to market them to an international clientele. In 2001, Mekong Plus was created. In order to qualify as makers the women were requested to stay in their communities and to use the money they made to send their children to school. Most people in rural Vietnam still rely on the land to make a living and would be working in the fields but Mekong Quilts offer an opportunity for women to stay at home and avoid more demanding physical labour.
As a result of their efforts, those employed by Mekong Quilts have increased their monthly to income from an average of $20 to $100.
The designs come from a collaborative effort between Mekong Plus and an Australian NGO called AVI (Australian Volunteers International). Designers come to stay in Saigon from anything between a month to a year and work with the makers to create eye-catching designs suitable for the international market, specifically Europe. Not only do they have retail outlets in Vietnam but also organise charitable events in Europe to raise awareness of their projects.
At …in a strange land, we have a small but growing range of products from this remarkable company and hope you will fall in love with the exquisite craftsmanship, attention to detail and wonderful story as much as we have.