Since 1982, the YMCA of Chiangmai in Northern Thailand has been exporting Thai handicrafts to fair trade organisations around the world. The aim is to help the poor villagers in Northern Thailand by giving them a way to earn a living. At present, the YMCA is working with more than 30 producer groups, generating employment for more than 500 people.
As a first step, the YMCA provides vocational training to the villagers, the subject of which varies depending upon the request of the villagers and the natural resources available. The YMCA encourages traditional crafts such as basket or cotton weaving and jewellery-making and skills such as sewing, wood carving or ceramics. The trainers are either YMCA staff from the Community Development Department or villagers who have attended special handicraft training courses. A network has also been established in Northern Thailand to offer producers local sales opportunities.
This programme has two stages - first, villagers are taught to make the handicraft products; second, once the villagers become proficient at the skill, the YMCA helps market the products both locally and internationally.
Profits go to the producers themselves and into the YMCA's rural development program in a way that will benefit their wider communities.