Step Ahead was co-founded by John Quinley and his wife, Kim in 2002. Historically a part of YWAM, today Step Ahead is a foundation in Thailand and a 501c3 in the USA. We work with poor Thai families living in the slums of Bangkok by giving micro loans to people that will allow them start their own self-sustaining small businesses. As an alternative to simply handing over donations with no follow up, micro loans encourage the community to unite and support itself up in a sustainable manner. These loans, which are usually between $100 and $200, build personal responsibility and dignity and bring about big results by opening up economic opportunities. Ultimately, this provides means for more income for food, shelter, healthcare and education for these Thai families.
In addition to the work being done in Bangkok, the Step Ahead Training Center in Khao Lak, South Thailand, was started in May 2005 after the devastating blow of the Tsunami on December 26th, 2004. Historically, Khao Lak has been home to a thriving tourist industry alongside well-established local fishing businesses. In 2005, this content stretch of the Andaman coast was one of the most damaged areas and hosted thousands of human casualties. Many people in the area lost members of their family and friends, homes and businesses. Step Ahead’s vision behind the project is to restore hope to people in this area by enabling them to develop their core employability skills with courses in English, German, Hospitality and Computers. Currently, over 2,000 people have received training in these areas and also in short courses such as Italian and cooking.
We have also established four pre-school/child development centers in the region. The first center, started by Kim Quinley, began as a child safe zone barely six weeks after the tsunami struck to protect children from potential trafficking. These four centers have remained ever since at the core of Step Ahead’s integrated community development and recovery work. Caring for the little ones, after all, is a primary concern for families, and strengthening families is key helping develop and empower communities. Additionally, KFT (Keeping Families Together) is a growing program driven by a compassionate group of Step Ahead volunteers and employees that seeks to mobilize and strengthen local communities to care for orphans, widows, and vulnerable families through holistic development training, economic initiatives, educational opportunities, psychosocial support, health access, and spiritual transformation.
While there are several other communal sectors that our organization partners with, perhaps the most exciting programs at present feature Step Ahead's ITSERA purse making programs. The Thai Totes project is supported the local Moken (sea gypsy) women who hand-weave and make various tote designs that are sold in order to support themselves and their families. The Moken are an indigenous minority in Thailand that faced a huge cultural and communal blow after the Tsunami. Similarly, in 2009, Step Ahead trained and employed women at risk in Pattaya to make ITSERA (meaning Freedom in Thai) bags. This step created hundreds of beautiful bags and proved that our women's group could change their lives making beautifully woven leather, Italian-style purses.
Next, Step Ahead is now training and forming ITSERA Bag making groups in the poorest, and most at risk region of Thailand. Indeed, 80% of the women and girls in Thai bars and brothels are migrating from Isaan. This now our newest focus area.
The Step Ahead Family