Skills development and job creation for vulnerable people, including people living with disability to reduce impacts from COVID-19

Since completing an Advanced Diploma of Tourism Management at Victoria University in 2005, Souksan Thavikham has applied her knowledge to support sustainable development in Lao PDR. She now works as an Assistant Program Manager at the National Governance and Public Administration Reform Programme, Ministry of Home Affairs.

Souksan is one of five recipients awarded a 2021 Alumni Innovation Grant in February. The grant funding provides support for Laos Australia Alumni to implement projects which help Lao communities recover from and respond to the impacts of COVID-19.

Souksan’s grant proposal included partnering with the Saysetha District for Disabled People Association (SDDPA) and the Saysetha Labour and Social Welfare Office. Collaboratively, the organisations trained 25 women, men and people living with a disability with income-generating skills.

The first skill taught was handmaking doormats and bags using old clothes and waste materials. The second training involved tailoring and barbering workshops. Following the training, participants are provided with tools such as sewing machines and barber’s scissors to enable them to continue to hone their craft whilst generating income from home.

“Trainees were very happy and surprised when the project gave them a sewing machine after the training. A young mother, who just lost her job because she had given birth, is now working on making clothes at her home. She has also received sewing jobs from a factory to work from home. Thus, she can generate income while being able to take care of her baby and family at home. I would like to sincerely thank the Australian Government for providing me with this opportunity to implement this project so I can help others,” Souksan shares.

Due to the second wave of COVID-19 in Laos the barber training, scheduled for April, is delayed until the situation improves and groups can gather safely. Once it is safe to do so, Souksan and her team look forward to training several young men in this skill.

“Youth unemployment can lead to many social problems. If they are equipped with a vocational skill, a barbering skill, for instance, they will be able to make an income and have their own barbershop.” Souksan says.

This is the second time Souksan has received an Alumni Innovation Grant. In 2020, Souksan submitted a successful application which supported more than 30 trainees, including ten people with a disability living in Saysettha District, to generate alternative income during the first wave of COVID-19 in Laos. This was achieved through teachings in small scale farming of mushrooms, fish, frogs, and chickens.

Souksan continues to innovate sustainable solutions to some of Lao economic challenges particularly as they relate to the most vulnerable sectors of society.  The Australian Government is proud to support such a dedicated Laos Australia Alumnae.

This alumni story was originally posted on the Australian Embassy to Lao PDR website.

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