Nong and Jin, students at Pratthanadee Foundation, share quite similar life experiences.
Both have husbands who not only didn’t show up in the marriage but also left them with debt and the sole responsibility of taking care of the children and extended families. Their circumstances led them to Bangkok where they found work as massage therapists for several years until the pandemic interrupted their lives for part of last year and most of 2021. Their savings quickly dried up and they soon realized the need for plan B and the importance of diversifying their incomes.
Jin knew how to cook coconut rice noodles and realized that no one else in her neighbourhood was selling something similar. She thought this could be an opportunity. So she started with 20 portions just to test the water and set up a stand outside the massage shop. Within a few hours, all the food was sold.
“I’m proud of the fact I made something out of nothing! I have loyal customers now and sell 30 portions every day. I’m glad that I decided to do something to change my circumstances rather than waiting it out. Covid has taught me that everything is uncertain. I need to be adaptable and diversify my skills to ensure I have enough money to survive.
“Pratthanadee has helped me with so many things. I never used to think about forward planning, and I wasn’t very good at managing money. I never set a goal for myself for the future because I was living day to day, but now I know not only what my personal goals are but how to get there. One day I will own a small house; one day I will be debt free.”
After the lockdown was recently lifted in Bangkok, Nong returned to the massage parlor. Like Jin, she also realized the need to diversify her income. She began helping a family sell Chinese donuts and soy milk during the morning rush hour. Nong saves the extra income and has started planning for a small food business. She also recently acquired training in post-natal massage, a niche service and an untapped demand she is eager to develop. These will provide her with additional income and ensure she has work even if future lockdowns are enforced.
“The biggest lessons I learned during Covid is to save more money and economize. I love having the time to look after my children, but I want a better life for them. These new opportunities could be the gateway towards financial security in the future.”
To help them realize their dreams, Pratthanadee has been providing underprivileged women like Nong with free training on financial planning and career mapping. With low-wage workers hit the hardest by pandemic restrictions, this has never been timelier. By building her financial literacy skills through workshops and mentorship, Nong understands how to save, which opportunities to seize, and where to find them. The moral support she receives through the community at Pratthanadee and the progress she has made with English lessons has given her a boost of confidence despite the hardships she has faced during the pandemic.
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