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Changing a Girl's Life One Purse at a Time with Ginny Buckley


Pour yourself a nice cup of tea and sit back and listen as one of our British volunteers, Ginny Buckley, shares her life in Yatton, England. She is an aspiring equestrian, hen rescuer, dog lover, snail aficionado, camper, puzzler and prolific knitter. Add to those interests her passion for Sew Powerful. Ginny shares how she got started with Sew Powerful and then held very lucrative fund raisers in her village, giving us great ideas we might try in our own hometowns.


Giant Land Snails, dressage, British Hen Welfare, Evergreen Equestrian Center, fundraising for Sew Powerful, glamping, jigsaw puzzles, Village of Yatton, UK


We are Sew Powerful, How a Global Community of Seamstresses Is Changing Zambia One Girl at A Time, 2nd edition. By Jason G. Miles and Cinnamon, © 2016 & 2020 Jason G. Miles and Cinnamon, all rights reserved.


The Sew Powerful Podcast shines a light on the people behind the mission to keep girls in school and create purposeful products in Zambia. Join us every week for a new 30-minute episode to meet new people, hear inspiring stories, and learn how you can join us in this global movement. Whether you sew or not, make purses or not, you will find something to enjoy in every episode. Listen today.


Host: Jan Cancila

Guest: Ginny Buckley


Jan Cancila, Host 00:04

Welcome to the Sew Powerful podcast. This is your host, Jan Cancila. You know the sound of my sewing machine means it's time for another episode. So let's get started.


Jan 00:20

Hello, Ginny Buckley, welcome to the Sew Powerful podcast.


Ginny Buckley, Guest 00:25

Hello, Jan. Thank you for having me. It's nice to meet you at last.


Jan 00:29

Well, it's nice to meet you at last too across the pond. Ginny is coming to us from Yatton. How do you pronounce your town?


Ginny 00:38



Jan 00:38

Yatton. I got it. All right. Well, you have quite the number of interests, very unique, very interesting, and we're so excited to talk to you. You've also written a very interesting story that appears now in the second edition of the "We Are Sew Powerful" book. And we'll talk about that in a little bit. But tell us a little bit about Yatton and where is it and help orient those of us, especially in the US who may not be familiar with your town?


Ginny 01:08

Yatton is a small, small town or large village, just south of Bristol, in the southwest of the UK. It has a population of about 7,000 people. So, it's really quite small. Quite a vibrant village, though.


Jan 01:25

I have to confess I've looked at your photos on Facebook. I see pictures of sheep and horses. Is it a rural community?


Ginny 01:37

It's what you'd call semi-rural. So, one direction, there's lots of, there's farm land, another direction it's quite urban.


Jan 01:46

Tell us a little bit about your family.


Ginny 01:49

I'm married to Martin, have been for 32 years. We're both very active in our local church. He is not a pastor, but he is a preacher at our church and has various other jobs to do. I have three daughters: Hannah, Leah, and Miriam, who are grown up now. Only Miriam is at home. She's training to be a hairdresser. So, she's very useful. Leah is a nurse up in Scotland. And Hannah works for the Ministry of Defense.


Jan 02:24

Oh, my goodness.


Ginny 02:24

So, they're busy girls.


Jan 02:27

And your daughter who is a nurse, how has COVID affected her and her job?


Ginny 02:32

Fortunately for us, she hasn't been on a COVID ward. The hospital where she's working has been very busy, much busier than usual. They've had extra patients on the wards. But she's kept well, and fortunately everything's okay with her. So, we haven't got to see her very often.


Jan 02:53

Yeah, I guess so. So, besides the husband and daughters, there's another important member of your family, named Olive, I believe, right?


Ginny 03:01



Jan 03:02

Tell us about Olive.


Ginny 03:04

Olive is our Italian Spinone which is a breed of dog and they're gundogs. She's 18 months old, and she's a lot of fun. Quite a big dog, but she's obsessed with anything feathery. So, taking her out for walks is quite entertaining. But she's a lovely gentle character. She has a very pleasant, very lovely character.


Jan 03:27

Now, the breed of dog is Italian Spinone. And I had to look that up and it said it was extremely rare in the US. But is it a common breed over in England?


Ginny 03:39

Not particularly. No, people don't generally know what they are, I must say. There are pockets of them all over the world. And we keep in touch through a Facebook group. So, we had to travel quite a distance to get her. There are quite a few in America. They're rare, but there are quite a few.


Jan 04:03

Keeping with the animal theme, your Facebook profile picture has you holding a Giant Land Snail. What is that all about, Ginny?


Ginny 04:15

At our church, I run a group for parents and toddlers. And a year or so ago we had a visit from a local zoo farm. And they brought various animals for the children to hold and to look at. And they brought gerbils and tortoises and guinea pigs. And one of the things they brought was Sydney, the giant African Land Snail. And I said Well, as long as you don't expect me to touch that, it's fine. Anything else, anything furry, it's okay. But after a while, I thought, come on, you're a big girl now grow up. You can do this. And actually, he put his head out of his shell as he sat on my hand and waved his antenna at me and I was really rather in love with him after a while, but I don't want one.


Jan 05:04

Well, I wasn't sure by looking at your photo, whether he was yours or not. Now, you call the Evergreen Equestrian Center your happy place. Tell us about that.


Ginny 05:17

When I was a little girl, I didn't have riding lessons at all, but it was something I always wanted to do. And so when I was about 21, I decided I was going to do this. And I started having riding lessons. Over the years, I sort of rode on and off. And then about 20 years ago, I started going to Evergreen Equestrian Center, which is run by a lovely lady called Lizzie. And I go there once a week to have a riding lesson. Just in an arena, we sometimes do jumping, we sometimes do dressage work. And I wouldn't say I was particularly good at it. But I get a lot of joy from the time that I spend at the Equestrian Center there, it's lovely.


Jan 05:56

And do you have a special horse that you ride?


Ginny 05:59

I do have a favorite at the moment whose name is Marnie. But she is an Appaloosa, who is about 16-2. Quite a big girl. But yeah, she's very nice character, very gentle soul. And we're getting to understand each other very well.


Jan 06:14

Oh, that's nice. Now you volunteer for an organization called British Hen Welfare. Tell us about the organization and what do you do with them?


Ginny 06:27

Basically, the British Hen Welfare rescue chickens which have lived in battery sheds, so commercially produced chickens, they take them from the battery sheds, and then they rehome them with people who want chickens as pets. My neighbor who has hens of her own, just asked me if I'd like to go and help her one day. And so I've done this well, four or five times now. We go to a location. There's a lady who lets us use her garage in her courtyard of her house. We wait there, it's almost a bit secretive, we wait there, and a van will arrive with cages of chickens, which we release into a big pen. And then people who pre-booked will come and they'll collect the chickens in fours or sixes, and take them off to have a happy life, really.


Jan 07:20

Well, and do you have chickens? Or you just help?


Ginny 07:23

I just help. I would love to have some chickens, but my dog would love them even more I think so that is not such a good idea.


Jan 07:30

Well, when I asked the question, I thought, oh I bet Olive would like chickens.


Ginny 07:36

Oh, yes.


Jan 07:38

I also know that you enjoy camping.


Ginny 07:42

Yes, I do like going camping. We went into Yorkshire earlier in the year. That was really nice. As soon as lockdown was lifted, and we were able to go on holiday. We went off with our tent and camped in Yorkshire, which was very nice.


Jan 07:57

So is this roughing it, or sometimes we call it glamping where it's glamorous camping?


Ginny 08:03

It's somewhere between the two. I make sure we have an electric hookup so we can take our little fridge and we can have like electric light. And we can also have a heater if it gets a bit cold at night, so not really roughing it, no.


Jan 08:16

Oh how fun. And when you're not camping or rescuing hens you like jigsaw puzzles too?


Ginny 08:23

I do like jigsaw puzzles, yes. I do quite a few jigsaw puzzles. I like knitting as well. I do an awful lot of knitting and keep them, the girls keep saying to me, oh, my friend is having a baby. Can you just knit this for me? Or Samson needs a pair of socks? Can you just knit this for them? So, when I'm not sewing and when I'm not doing jigsaws and things I'm often knitting.


Jan 08:46

And when did you start sewing?


Ginny 08:50

I started using my mum's sewing machine when I was 10 or 11. But it's something that I've always been interested in. When I was very small my mum produced sewing cards for me, where she would basically draw a picture on a piece of cardboard, and then punch holes into the picture. So, I could go up and down with a needle and a piece of wool and follow the outline of the picture. So, it started like that, I suppose.


Jan 09:19

Hand sewing.


Ginny 09:21

Yes, yes. Yeah. It's just something I've always enjoyed really.


Jan 09:26

Well, I think that's probably something many of us have in common. Those of us that make purses, or I should say bags, for Sew Powerful. Now, you volunteer for Sew Powerful, and you've made a number of purses, and you've also done some fundraisers as well. In your story, you talked about hosting a coffee morning at your church. And that's not a familiar term in the US. So tell us what a coffee morning is in general, and then we'll talk about the one that you did specifically for Sew Powerful.


Ginny 10:01

Okay. A coffee morning is an organized event in a church hall or a village hall, some public place like that. You turn up, pay for your coffee or your cup of tea, and then you drink it socially, around small tables, you know chatting with friends. There would usually be one or two stalls where you could buy homemade cakes, or maybe other types of produce as well.


Jan 10:28

Mm hmm. And so you decided to host a coffee morning at your church to benefit Sew Powerful. When was that?


Ginny 10:38

It was in 2017 was the first one, about June or July time, I can't remember the exact date.


Jan 10:44

And so when you hosted it, had you been making purses by that time?


Ginny 10:49

I had just a few months. It was something that really, really gripped me. And I thought I read somewhere that it cost about $5 to cover the contents of each purse. So, I thought, well, it's not fair to send the purses without the money. That just didn't seem right. So, I went round all the ladies in the church, we have about 60 people. And I went to all the ladies and said, Please, can you make me a cake for Saturday? But the case was normally you just say, oh, there's going to be a coffee morning, please, can you make cakes just as a general sort of, you know, announcement. But I actually asked people specifically if they would come and make me a cake, because I thought that way more people will turn up because they'll have to deliver the cakes to me. And we actually did really well.


Jan 11:39

Yeah, in your story, you said that you raised 550 pounds. And so, I did the exchange rate, which is 715 US dollars, which I mean that's significant. That's a lot.


Ginny 11:52



Jan 11:53

So you did another event, a bread and cheese lunch, right?


Ginny 11:59



Jan 12:00

Now, that's not a common thing in the US either. So, tell us about that.


Ginny 12:05

They're not very common here, to be honest. It was something that our church thought up. And once a month, again, it's a charity event. We'll stay behind after the church service in the morning. Somebody will choose a charity and they will organize the lunch for that month. And they will literally provide bread and cheese. So, bread rolls, nice cheese, warm, crusty bread. And we'll sit and we'll eat together. And then at the end, when we finished eating, the people who've organized that week or that month lunch will talk about their charity, their chosen charity, and people will make donations in lieu of what they would spend on their lunch at home.


Jan 12:48

And so, you chose to talk about Sew Powerful.


Ginny 12:53



Jan 12:53

And so, at that one, you raised 370 pounds, which at today's exchange rate is almost $500. So that's very significant. That is very significant. Now you have done another fundraiser, where you sent another 550 pounds, is that right?


Ginny 13:16

Yes. I think that was another coffee morning.


Jan 13:19

Okay, right. Yeah, that was in your story. So, I added this all up, and you've sent in enough to fill 382 purses, which is...


Ginny 13:29



Jan 13:30

I know that's amazing. 382 girls now have a chance at a better life because of your fundraising efforts. So, Ginny, that's amazing. Why don't we take a quick break and we're going to talk a little bit more about purse making and your work with Sew Powerful. So, let's take a quick break.


Jan 13:53

Have you gotten the second edition of the "We Are Sew Powerful" book? This updated version of the original bestseller, 4.9 out of five stars, by the way, is again authored by Sew Powerful co-founders, Jason and Cinnamon Miles. It is available on Amazon in paperback or for your Kindle reader. This latest edition is packed full of moving stories about how Sew Powerful came to be, the volunteers who make it happen and the way this small movement has grown into a global mission to break the cycle of poverty through education and the dignity of work. And don't forget when you place your order if you use and designate Sew Powerful as your preferred charity. Amazon will donate a portion of your purchase right back to Sew Powerful. And now back to our podcast.


Jan 14:56

Welcome back. We've been talking with Ginny Buckley and her very busy and interesting life that she has in Yatton, England. She wrote a story and described her involvement with Sew Powerful, including several very lucrative fundraising events that she held there in her hometown. Ginny, tell us about how you found Sew Powerful to begin with.


Ginny 15:22

Okay, I was looking on the internet back in 2017. Just thinking to myself, it would be nice if I could make a ball gown for my daughter's school ball, which is like your prom. I was kidding myself, really, because I knew that there was no way she was going to go in a dress that I'd made. But I just liked the idea. And as I was looking at various patterns, one of the adverts that always pops up on the side of the screen was for a charity called Sew Powerful, which I've never heard of. But I looked at it. And I thought, Oh, that looks quite interesting, you know, looked a bit further. And it just really, really spoke to me. I think I said in my story, I don't know if it's because I'm a woman. I don't know if it's because I've got three daughters myself. But I just thought what a terrible, terrible situation for these girls to be in. And it just really, really moved me. So I downloaded a pattern. And I made a bag. And I thought, actually, that's really nice. I really like that. And I enjoyed making it. And that's something that I can do. And looking back, I realized that it was God calling me and saying, I've given you this talent. And this is why I've given it to you.


Jan 16:38

Oh my goodness, oh, that gives me chills. That's wonderful. So that was in 2017. That would have been what we call the intermediate pattern, right?


Ginny 16:48

Yes, that's right.


Jan 16:49

And have you moved on to the beginner pattern, or did you stick with the original?


Ginny 16:55

I liked the original better, I must admit. But if there's a posting date approaching, then I move on to the beginner one because you can produce more, you can get them done more quickly.


Jan 17:06

Mm hmm.


Ginny 17:07

And there's also a lady in our church who has an embroidery machine, which I don't have. So she's embroidering some beautiful bag flaps for me, which lend themselves very nicely to the beginner pattern. So when she's given me a batch of flaps, then I make beginner patterns.


Jan 17:22

Oh, so it's a group effort?


Ginny 17:24

Oh, absolutely. Yes, it is.


Jan 17:26

How wonderful. And do you get any of the other ladies in your church involved besides attending your coffee mornings?


Ginny 17:33

Yes, we've had two or three sewing days that I organized. About eight people turned up each time with their sewing machines and all their equipment. And we sat and at the first one, I talked people through the bags. I sat them down, I printed off the patterns for each, I cut out a kit for each. And we did it together, including a little girl who was only eight years old, actually. It was just before her ninth birthday. She sat at my machine and every step of the way I said it was right to pin that, stitch that, and she was an absolute natural. She made an intermediate bag, aged eight. And it looks fantastic.


Jan 18:16

And has that bag been sent in? Yeah.


Ginny 18:19

That's one of the 2017 bags that I sent.


Jan 18:23

So a girl somewhere in Zambia has that bag that your eight year old protege made and it's changed her life. That's fantastic.


Ginny 18:33

Absolutely, yeah.


Jan 18:35

So I always have to ask everybody, do you make the strap out of the matching or coordinating fabric or do you use webbing to make a strap?


Ginny 18:45

I have to confess I'm a webbing girl.


Jan 18:47

All right, me too. All right, we call it Team Webbing. I recently spoke with Donna Moscinski, and we have many things in common but she's Team Strap and I'm Team Webbing.


Ginny 18:58

Oh, ok.


Jan 18:59

Yeah. I understand that in August of 2019 when Sew Powerful had a booth, I think it was in London if I'm not mistaken. Is that true?


Ginny 19:11



Jan 19:12

Oh, in Birmingham. That's right. It was in Birmingham, you participated and worked in the booth and met several of the other Sew Powerful volunteers. So tell us all about that experience.


Ginny 19:24

I was sent a message by a lady called Sandy Simm who is the UK coordinator, say saying there's going to be a Sew Powerful booth at the National Exhibition of Quilts in Birmingham, would you be able to come and help man the store? And I had to think about it and then I said to myself, well, yes, of course I can. It'll be fun. And so, I set off. It's about an hour and three quarters drive from where I live. So set off nice and early, got there and I met Jason and Cinnamon and Sandy Simm, who was one of the main volunteers. And I met Louise Ambrosi. I met a lady called Sandy Snowden, who was helping as well who, unfortunately has since passed away. But we just had a fantastic day, there were women at the exhibition from all over the world. And we almost had a little competition with ourselves to see how many flyers we could give out. And I can't remember what the number was, but it was a lot. And it was just a fantastic experience. And I was so looking forward to going again this year. But unfortunately, COVID was an end to that, but next time it happens, I will be there.


Jan 20:39

Oh, that's great. Oh, that's fantastic. And so, can you describe the booth? What did the booth look like?


Ginny 20:46

It was quite small. It was possibly about six feet square, something like that. And the booths were all one up against the other. There weren't any gaps in between. So, it was something we stood in front of. The purses were hanging on the back wall and the two side walls so people could see them. And we had flyers to give out. We had packs made up that people could buy if they wanted to. We had one or two patterns, I think printed it off as well. And we had snacks pushed under the tablecloth at the front.


Jan 21:21

Yes to sustain you. I know you.


Ginny 21:23

Absolutely. They were essential snacks.


Jan 21:26

Absolutely. Well, and that sounds a lot like the way we had done the quilt shows in the US as well. So that's that's always interesting to know that no matter where we are in the world, we're way more similar than we are different.


Ginny 21:41

Absolutely, yeah, we are.


Jan 21:43

Ginny, I want to thank you so much for your time and sharing your talents with Sew Powerful and taking the time today to tell us about your background and all the work that you've done. It's just been so inspirational to get some ideas from you about different fundraising activities besides making the purses so, I appreciate it, and I wish you a Sew Powerful day.


Ginny 22:10

Thank you very much. It's been lovely to talk to you Jan. I've really enjoyed it.


Jan 22:13

You as well. Thank you.


Jan 22:16

If what you've heard today inspires you to want to make a difference. I urge you to explore the Sew Powerful website at that's SEW POWERFUL dot ORG. The website has great information about the organization, it's where you can download the free purse patterns or even make a donation. We hope you will join us again next week when we bring you another Sew Powerful story. Thanks for listening. Now, go out and have a Sew Powerful day.


Jan Cancila has been making purses for Sew Powerful since 2014. She serves the organization as Director, Global Volunteerism, the Area Manager for Shows and Events-Mid/South USA and as the Houston Regional Coordinator. She was a public speaking major at Hanover College and holds an MBA from Our Lady of the Lake University. Jan had a 25-year career with The Coca-Cola Company before owning and operating a linen and party rental business in Houston. She is married with two grown sons, a lovely daughter-in-law and two remarkable granddaughters. Jan’s published work includes more than 100 online articles for Reach Jan with comments or suggestions at