One day, when I was doing outreach work, there was an incident near the Tan Thuan Bridge. I was sitting and talking with Thao and two other sex workers, when a new customer approached Thao and gave the price. Suddenly, a second man turned up and asked her to return the money that he had paid the night before. He was angry, because they had gone to a hotel to have sex, but he was unable to ejaculate due to his drunkenness. The first man became scared and ran away, and so Thao lost her new customer. But Thao refused to give the money back, as she needs the earnings of one night for living the next day. The quarrel started to draw attention from passers-by. Then, I invited the man to sit down and told him about Thao’s harsh life, and I gave him hints that the police might penalise us for disturbing social order. The man calmed down and left. Thao told me that this had happened before, but that for her the only solution was to sneak away. I showed the women a different way of dealing with a difficult situation. As a result, they better understood my work and trusted me more, and my self-confidence about my abilities and the work path I have chosen, increased. After saying goodbye, I felt truly happy!

Sharing, understanding, and solidarity are key when you want to build a self-help group like ours

Compared to the outreach work, my role as a team leader of a self-help group is more complicated, which is why I invest a lot of time in improving my skills. About one year ago, something happened. The outreach workers in our group are of different ages and have diverse personalities and capacities. Especially their computer skills vary. At the end of each month, outreach workers need to report about activities on the computer, but some made many mistakes and did not finish the work in time. They started to compare and this caused jealousy and a bad atmosphere. I needed to improve the situation. So, I talked to the team members individually, to better understand each person’s story and way of thinking. And during the weekly meetings, I brought up the issue, giving everybody a chance to come up with ideas and solutions. Besides that, I asked advice from the Alliances Leaders group and the project officers of Supporting Community Development Initiatives (SCDI). In the end, after several group meetings, all core members opened up their hearts, shared their weaknesses, and came up with ideas. Since then, our team members really work together well.

From this experience I have learned some important lessons. First of all, sharing, understanding, and solidarity are key when you want to build a self-help group like ours. Furthermore, it is essential to give people tasks that match their skills. And, as a team leader, I have to listen, observe, and analyse situations carefully, and, at the same time, discuss things with everyone openly. In this way, we can together find the best solutions for everything.

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