They come to my door sometimes, always unannounced, and always with some inexpensive sugary drink or snack to give to me, the hostess, as is proper Asian custom.
|A blurry photo I snapped during one of those visits.|
We sit down, usually on the floor. They’re more comfortable there. I pour the sickeningly sweet orange liquid into glasses, comment on how much bigger their babies have grown, and they tell me they need a job. Can I give them a job?
These women have babies, children to feed, elderly parents to care for, and they are asking to work, not a for a handout, but for work.
They are hoping I will say I need a house helper, someone to come and clean and wash laundry for me, for pay.
“I already have 3 house helpers,” I tell them. “I don’t need anyone else.”
“What skills do you have?”
Most of them say, “I don’t have any.”
One answered, “I can clean house, take care of children, and cook Burmese food.”
I was impressed with her self assessment, that she categorized the things she knew how to do as skills. But, they’re not something that will get her a job in this town. Most women can do that.
So TinTin and I have been hatching a plan to add classes at the community center that are specifically about job skills training. Partly so that I have something to say to these women.
“I don’t have a job for you. But we have a weekly training, and if you attend we can teach you skills that may help you get a job.”
The first thing we talked about was a sewing class. We already have staff members who can teach it. We just need to work out the details.
I was in a sewing machine shop, looking for something basic, and asked him to show me an industrial model that could do straight stitch and zigzag stitch. Most only do one or the other. Imagine my surprise when his rummaging produced a very dusty, but perfectly functional, Bernina 950, the holy grail of industrial sewing machines. He’s asking half the going rate for a secondhand model in the US. It was still a lot more than I was planning to spend. But it’s an amazing machine that will last for years, and make our future classes so much more versatile.
I’ve got it on hold for 2 weeks. Will you help us buy it? We need to come up with $650 USD by May 16th in order to pay for it.
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