Foong Yee lives in a low cost flat with her three children on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. Her husband is a handyman who is often out of work, leaving Foong Yee to manage the young children on a tight budget. She never had the opportunity to pursue her education, and lacked work skills as she had always been a homemaker.
Innovative, bright and hardworking there is no reason why Foong Yee should have to struggle to make ends meet. She simply has never had the opportunity for self-improvement. That all changed in 2004. It was her next-door neighbour, Tan Thai, who first introduced her to Salaam Wanita. When members of her weaving group dropped out because there were not enough orders, Foong Yee stayed on trying new weaving techniques on her own and making new baskets to show the coordinators. She never gave up.
Now Salaam Wanita provides the enabling environment for her to be a person of initatives. She has taken charge of her own life!
Not only is Foong Yee providing income to her family but she is also exporting part of the process to another woman. She enjoys weaving and her artistic talent is evident; constantly experimenting with new designs, colors and patterns. During these past four years, she has become one of the best weavers and now passes on her knowledge to the rest. She and her group strive to constantly create new designs and innovations. Since three of them are neighbours at the Seleyang flat, they go to the mall together to learn colour combinations and geometrical patterns. They frequently gather at Foong Yee's place to discuss product quality and improvements.
They have now developed a specialisation of tasks within the group. It started out first when Foong Yee had two rollers to supply her with magazine rolls so that she can concentrate on weaving. It turned out that by specialising on tasks that each one of them is good at, her group as a whole can produce better quality baskets in a shorter period of time. This innovative process of team work has made her group the best weaving group in the project.
However, as they work collaboratively, Foong Yee's role in harmonising everybody's schedule has become more critical. When she receives orders, she coordinates every one to meet orders on time. She decides who in her group will produce how many baskets in a certain time frame, and passes the words around her group by using a mobile phone.
It is also through her mobile phone communication that she schedules time to pick up finished orders or set up time to deliver the order to the Salaam Wanita coordinator. Because the Klang Valley region is notorious for its high transportation costs, Foong Yee had to learn to drive as there are no public transport other than high-cost taxis in her area. Mobile phone communication with Salaam Wanita coordinators and two other members of her group who live further away saves travel costs and time.
The group tries new designs, experiments with new varnish of different colours or different finishing touches. They work together, strive together and improve together; and Foong Yee and her hand phone are there at the center of the picture, connecting these ladies shoulder to shoulder as well as reaching out to the world.
They are all friends now and this is one of the most valuable lessons she has learnt since she started weaving. "Friends are important because they can help each other."
Foong Yee is a successful woman. She has improved her weaving technique almost completely on her own. She is a respected leader among her group. Foong Yee is hard at work inventing new designs. Her dark eyes light up when she sees a possible color combination or new idea. Perhaps, one day Foong Yee will outgrow Salaam Wanita, and market her own unique products!