It isn’t hard to find her in the center of a crowded market in Long Phu commune, Tam Binh district, Vinh Long province. Everyone here knows To Thi Thu Thao, a young woman who always has a shining smile on her face.
To look at her, you’d never know the difficulty she has faced.
Thao was born into a poor family, part of Vietnam’s Khmer ethnic minority. Her parents couldn’t afford to send her to high school, so she married at 18 and soon had two children.
Since then, life hasn't gotten any easier, as her husband’s family is also poor. His income, from repairing electric appliances, is unstable and never enough, especially as their children grow.
Thao thought constantly about how to earn a better living and decided to sell boiled duck and quail eggs in a local market, but it still wasn’t enough. She was making the equivalent of about $1.30 per day, which with her husband’s income gave the family a total of just $4.40 a day.
Then, by accident, Thao heard about Pact’s Mekong Vitality project, which is funded by the Coca-Cola Foundation and uses Pact’s signature WORTH model. WORTH brings together groups of women and older girls and uses a combination of literacy training, community banking and microbusiness development to help women lift themselves and one another out of poverty.
Thao wanted to learn more, so she decided to join a WORTH group. She also convinced other women in her village to join their local group, named the Sunflower WORTH group.
Since Thao joined, her confidence has grown. Her WORTH group nominated her to be its chairperson, leading the group and helping members to fill out WORTH banking forms.
Thao has taken two loans totaling about $166. With the money, she bought sugarcane, a table and cups to sell sugarcane juice to earn more for her family. She was also selected by her group to join the Advanced Business Component of the Mekong Vitality Expanded Alliance, supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development. She received a smartphone and a series of business trainings and instructions on how to use the phone for her business and networking. Thao is among the first women who have completed all the business training lessons installed on her phone, which she says have been useful.
“I love my WORTH group,” she says. “I am happy that I have had more income for the family after I expanded my business and applied what I have learned from the business trainings and materials. My daily income now goes up to at least VND 150,000 (about $6.60) each day.”
Earning more money, Thao was able to rent an electrical repair shop for her husband, helping him to earn more, too. Now, the family’s economic status has stabilized and she has even been able to help other women in her WORTH group. One member sells noodles at Thao’s sale location for no fee.
“Thanks to the WORTH groups, our women in the village have bonded closer to share experience and help each other," Thao says. "Whenever I have idle money, I deposit it to the WORTH group for safety and to support others."