Former journalists Trish Clark and her partner Iain Finley have been visiting northern Laos since 2010.
The Tweed Valley couple didn’t set out to help the community there – it just happened, said Clark.
“First up we built a road, then added 17 big culvert drains. Next it was a primary school, followed by the establishment of small-scale pig and buffalo farming, then a 68 bed dormitory for a middle school.”
All of this has been achieved with monies raised in Australia, as well as from family and friends around the world, through a NSW registered charity.
It was while working on these other schemes that the couple became aware of the wealth of woven and embroidered fabrics created in the country’s hundreds of small villages by women from a multitude of ethnicities. What followed was the establishment of Women’s Business, a textile school which teaches local women embroidery and weaving.
During 2018, the couple was joined by another Tweed Valley local, video editor Julie West, on a road-trip capturing on video the talents and living conditions of the rice-farming women who live and create their fabric treasures in the remote villages of beautiful and mountainous northern Laos.
The resultant documentary, Women’s Business, will screen at a fundraising event at Mount Vic Flicks on Monday, March 4 at 6.30pm. Tickets, $20, include a complimentary glass of champagne.
There will also be scarves, throws and shrugs for sale, all designed and created by this first intake of students. All of the monies raised will go back to the women of Laos and their Women’s Business School of Arts.
“We have never enjoyed such companionable easy-to-be-with teams as these women. The atmosphere was so relaxed,” said Clark. “They told us they want to learn these skills so as to have a chance to make extra income to help with buying school uniforms and medicines for their families.”