I have no desire to travel to Africa as a missionary (I like my bed too much). I will never run a large organization like Samaritan’s Purse and give away thousands of Christmas Shoe Boxes each year. I am not called to go and do somewhere else.
But I can write, right here.
What do you knit to wrap around a pole? A pole warmer, of course.
The other night I joined my husband, our church Home Group, Youth Group and about 20 other kindhearted folks and we wrote notes. Thousands of notes– little cards that will go all the way around the world to girls in Zambia, Africa. The note cards will travel via some fancy handmade cloth purses thanks to the vision and generosity of Sew Powerful, a non profit work right here in my own backyard. (I’ll tell you what else goes in those purses—reusable feminine hygiene products. Please read on.)
Sew Powerful is a non profit work supported by Liberty Jane Clothing, a business owned by our friends Jason and Cinnamon Miles. Liberty Jane sells doll clothes patterns for American Girl dolls through their online store; they also provide space for classes and teaching in their storefront shop.
Cinnamon is the doll clothes seamstress and pattern designer; Jason is co-founder and CEO.
Cinnamon and Jason Miles
Prior to working full time at Liberty Jane, Jason worked at World Vision, an international relief organization. On a trip in 2009 with World Vision Jason saw firsthand the desperate need for education among the poorest of the poor. Jason’s team visited Ngombe Compound (nome-bay) in Zambia, Africa. Ngombe was so forsaken at that time that even long term missionaries would not go into the area because of the risk of HIV AIDS.
In Ngombe Compound Jason’s team met 475 children—all orphans—who were being cared for almost singlehandedly by a woman named Esther and other ‘moms’ running a loosely organized education program called ‘Needs Care’ School.
Jason’s heart broke at what he saw; when he returned he told Cinnamon they must do something—anything, for Esther. That burden turned into financial gifts which over the years grew into a school, a sewing program for the moms; now there’s even a garden with food to feed the children. But back to the purses.
Now What to Do?
In the years that they traveled with teams to visit Needs Care School, Jason and Cinnamon discovered a surprising statistic: teenage girls regularly miss one week of school every month due to their monthly cycles, a total loss of 2 ½ months of education each year. Compounded over time this means many girls never complete an education, becoming by the age of 16 part of other statistics—early marriage and childbearing, even abuse.
Jason and Cinnamon birthed a new goal—keep the girls in school by providing a reusable feminine hygiene product similar to that used in other developing countries in Africa. The moms at Needs Care School by this time were set up with a sewing program; they could manufacture the reusable cloth pads. But how to carry them? Backpacks were nonexistent for the children, purses unheard of.
Cinnamon went to work with her remarkable skill set and designed a cloth purse with a deep center pouch, small pockets on the side and long straps that are perfect for a crossbody fit. Then Jason and Cinnamon put the word out to their sewing community. Their patterns had gone out for years to seamstresses all across the country and as far away as the U.K. and Australia. Would these women who loved sewing anyway be willing to make purses on a volunteer basis and ship them back to Sew Powerful? (World Vision would ferry them to Africa on Jason and Cinnamon’s behalf.)
A remarkable, resounding ‘yes’ came back and Sew Powerful was born.
friend Ashley Capps models some purses
Purses poured in from all over the world, increasing in quantity every year. This year’s unpacking event at the LJ store was going to be livestreamed so the seamstresses who contributed could see their work on the screen. How many purses would there be this year?
Boxes lined both sides of the front door when we arrived. Boxes were on the floors in front of the store. Lots of Boxes…..
Jason and Cinnamon were hoping for 3000 purses. As we unpacked and talked and wrote and unpacked and talked and wrote…..guesses were hollered from table to table. “1695!” “2500!” “3500!” At the end of the evening, when the last note was written and stuffed into a purse, the final count was 3,677 purses. A remarkable number, indeed.
Three thousand six hundred seventy seven girls would receive not only a purse but the promise of a future, one that held education and a way out of the four walls of Ngombe Compound.
A purse packed with love. And a note card. From friends half way around the world.
And all I had to do was pick up my pen.
To read more about the work and ministry of Sew Powerful and Liberty Jane Gives Back
click HERE, (especially if you like to sew!)