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Challenging Times with Ginny Buckley and Louise Ambrosi


In these challenging times, having a purse challenge may be just what the doctor ordered. Two of our UK volunteers, Ginny Buckley and Louise Ambrosi, take us on a delightful journey as they explain how they will revive the purse challenge, what it is, who it is for and how often they will issue the challenge. Lots of laughs and giggles in this episode so be prepared to share in the merriment.


UK, Sew Powerful, challenges, makers, fabric, sue, homeschooling


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: Louise Ambrosi and 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

Today we are going to be passing another baton and we're doing it internationally. You've met both of our guests before on previous podcasts. We're going to be speaking with Louise Ambrosi and Ginny Buckley from the UK. Both of their podcasts are among the most popular we've ever recorded. So, you might want to go back and listen to the originals if you haven't had a chance to do that. But we're going to be talking about some exciting news, and it involves passing the baton. So Louise and Ginny, welcome to the Sew Powerful Podcast.


Ginny Buckley, Guest 00:57

Hi, Jan. Nice to be back.


Jan 00:59

Yeah. How are you both doing?


Louise Ambrosi, Guest 01:03

We're okay. We're a bit cold, aren't we Ginny, in the UK?


Ginny 01:07

Yeah, I'm not as cold as you, I don't think. We haven't seen any snow yet this year.


Jan 01:14

Oh, well, I can look over Louise's shoulder and I see snow. She says it's a dusting, but where I live, I would be in a panic if I had that much snow. Anyway. So, let's talk about this baton that we're passing. I'll just sort of break the news if you all haven't figured it out by now. Sue Banman Sileci, who is our Regional Coordinator in Brazil for the last few years (and I think Ginny is better able to quantify this), but she's been setting up weekly challenges for purse makers, and Ginny and Louise have graciously agreed to take over those duties and we're so excited about that. So, let me start with you, Louise. How did this come about? How did you and Sue and Ginny figure this out?


Louise 02:06

Well, Shirley Utz and I had recently asked Ginny and Peggy to come on board with the Admin support in our Facebook group for Sew Powerful. Peggy had introduced her note card challenge every week. And I thought, well, what's happening to the purse challenge, because Sue used to run that, but I've not seen her around lately, not seen her posting. And, in fact, the last purse challenge she ran was back in October last year, and I thought, Ooh, I hope nothing is wrong. Or maybe she's just too busy. Or maybe she's just decided not to run them anymore. So, I asked the question and had a chat with Peggy and Ginny as well, and you Jan, deciding whether we should carry on with the challenges or if Sue needed help. And it turned out that Sue had been extremely busy with work, putting in crazy hours on her day job and just couldn't find the time to come up with the weekly challenges as well. So, I offered for Ginny and I to step in and run them in her place. And she happily agreed.


Jan 03:17

Now, Ginny, by the time you were volunteered, had you already agreed to this? Or were you surprised to find out?


Ginny 03:24

I was quite surprised, but flattered as well, of course, flattered as well. And so stepped up and said I'd helped Louise.


Jan 03:33

That's fantastic.


Louise 03:34

Thank you for saying yes.


Jan 03:36

I guess the lesson here is, be careful when you ask a question about 'whatever happened to' because you might become the new owner there. So, Ginny, you did a little research on the weekly challenges that Sue had done. What did you discover?


Ginny 03:54

That she covered a variety of subjects, and she covered all sorts of situations, really, American holidays and international themes that would appeal to a very wide range of people internationally.


Jan 04:09

And did you know how many she did?


Ginny 04:11

An awful lot.


Louise 04:13

Well over 100.


Ginny 04:15

There were an awful lot weren't there? Yes. I couldn't remember the exact numbers. But I know that she did them so regularly for such a time, that there's an awful lot of them.


Ginny 04:20

It's going to be a hard act to follow.


Jan 04:23



Jan 04:25

I can think of some of the ones that she did in the past. Earth Day was one that she did, and she did floral or a color theme, and she just really sort of covered the gamut. So, it was always fun. So how are you going to be sharing these duties? How does that work? Ginny, why don't we start with you on that one.


Ginny 04:45

We've agreed that we're going to do one challenge a fortnight. Louise is going to take approximately the first of the month, and I'm going to take approximately the 15th of the month.


Jan 04:58

Okay, and for our US listeners, fortnight is two weeks.


Ginny 05:03

Sorry. Yeah. Two weeks.


Jan 05:05

Two weeks.


Louise 05:05



Jan 05:06

Roughly, roughly. Okay. And we also said this was bi-monthly, and then we had to define that meaning twice a month, right?


Ginny 05:15

Yeah. Yeah.


Louise 05:17

Yeah, we figured that while Sue used to run them every week. And quite often people would only be gathering their fabrics in the first week, and then think, oh, I've missed that. I might move on to the next challenge or be very behind in making the purse and then show their purse weeks later. So, we thought if we give a two-week session for each theme, it gives people a bit more time to think about what they want to do, and present their purse.


Jan 05:45

I like that. I like that. So, what was the first challenge? Louise, can you talk about that one?


Louise 05:53

Well, since we started in the beginning of February, I thought, let's go with a Love challenge. And I'd call that Love is in the Air, but anything red or pink or with hearts or maybe with love or even not red and pink, even blue and yellow with hearts to go with the Valentine's holiday theme. And it's really worked a treat. We've had lots and lots of purse makers out there all over the world taking part in this one.


Jan 06:21



Louise 06:21

Been a nice surprise.


Jan 06:22

Yeah. Ginny, can you think of any of the purses that you've seen online that relate, sort of stand out, for this theme?


Ginny 06:31

They've been beautiful. There's been one that was, I think it was a tree with hearts embroidered on the branches. That possibly is one that Shirley Utz did. There were some that were appliqued. There were some that were quilted. Some that were just heart-patterned fabric. They were, they were stunning. No other word for it, absolutely stunning.


Jan 06:53

I know.


Louise 06:53

I agree.


Jan 06:54

Yeah. It made me feel really in the Valentine's mood to see that, and one that I remember had hearts with arrows and I think it was the intermediate purse, and I sure wish I remembered who made that purse. But if you were the purse maker for that one, that was the one that I liked and remembered. And I know Peggy Creighton has also done several that she digitized and then did on her embroidery machine. So yeah, that's been really fun. So that was the first challenge. Now you've just announced the second challenge. Do you want to talk about that? Now, let me back up a minute. Because Louise, you do the challenges at the first of the month? Is that how this is going to work?


Louise 07:37



Jan 07:37

So yours was the Love is in the Air challenge. And Ginny, you are the challenge for the 15th of the month. And what did you announce for the 15th?


Ginny 07:49

The theme I've chosen is Springtime, because here in the UK, we're just coming out of winter. And although there's still snow around in a lot of the country, there are signs of spring and new life coming through. There are bright spring flowers coming through. And I thought that would just be a nice thing to do. So it's a chance to use your floral fabrics, or just use your yellow and greens and things like that. Just something a little bit cheerful and it's something with a bit of hope and something to look forward to. Brighter days ahead.


Jan 08:17

That sounds great. And for people who might be new and who haven't participated in challenges in the past, and we've had a lot of new people join Sew Powerful since the challenges stopped back in October. In the past when Sue was doing the challenges weekly, sometimes I would be two or three weeks behind, but I would go ahead and post it anyway, then say this was the challenge from two or three weeks ago. Can we still do that and be late in our posting and still support the challenge that way?


Ginny 08:51

Yes, of course. Of course, you can. The challenges are purely for fun, they're not obligatory at all, entirely optional. If you like the look of a challenge and you've got appropriate fabric in your stash, you can do, say, Oh yeah, that's a good idea. I'll go for it. Or you might think well actually, you know, I don't fancy that one. I'll give it to miss this time. And maybe later on in the year then there'll be something that you like better. Any purses would be welcome. You can look at them all year round. So, if you want to do a Love is in the Air purse in October then that's fine as well.


Louise 09:21

We're a global group of makers and, and it's just getting people's creative juices flowing. It's purely for fun, the challenge. If someone's stuck in a rut or doesn't know which fabric to use next to make the next purse.


Jan 09:41

Have you gotten the second edition of the We Are Sew Powerful book? This updated version of the original best seller, 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 10:44

I always thought they were so much fun just to see the different ways that people interpreted the challenge. Can you expand on that a little bit, Ginny?


Ginny 10:58

Well, yes, everybody has a different level of creativity, and everybody's taste is different. Some people have embroidery machines, some people just have very basic machines. And it's the same with people's skill levels. So really, there is no, there's no right and wrong. Absolutely anything is acceptable. You know, it's just everybody's personal interpretation, as you said, of the theme.


Jan 11:22

And Louise, what do you think about the way people encourage each other on Facebook when they post for the theme?


Louise 11:30

I think everyone's been very encouraging and supportive. And it's brought up interesting discussions about how people have done things. Boxing those corners has been a bit of a topic lately, and also use of webbing and use of embellishments as well. What is a good idea, what is a no-no. So it's a really interesting exercise as well. And everyone's very supportive.


Jan 11:56

And, you know, we talked earlier a little bit about an international flavor. How do you plan to introduce that? Ginny, I'll start with you.


Ginny 12:09

There's a good question. I think really just being aware of, not all in the same season at the same time of year, we're not all. May be an event, or a holiday that happens in one country won't happen in another. I think we just need to be, well, just a bit more aware of the world around us, really.


Jan 12:27

Yeah. Louise, do you have anything on that one?


Louise 12:32

Well, I wouldn't mind making one of our themes to do with Around the World, seeing what fabrics and what designs come out from the purse makers, wherever they are in the world. Whether it's using the colors of their own flag or using a fabric of a city they'd like to visit or their favorite football team or something, you know, that shows where they're from, or where they'd like to go, just to make it more interesting for the purse maker and also for their recipient, what they can come up with. So that's one of my themes in my head.


Jan 13:05

In your head. Well, and you know, nobody's doing much traveling these days. So, if we can travel vicariously by designing or making a purse about our dream destination, I guess that's...


Louise 13:17

Ah, that's a nice title, the Dream Destination.


Jan 13:23

Oh, no, don't rope me into these challenges, now. This is all for both of you. Okay, so we're going to do it on the first, and the 15th will be a new theme. And where do you want people to post the photos of their purses? Louise, tell us what you have in mind.


Louise 13:40

Right. When we announce the themes, Ginny or I will set up the album, which we will keep at the top of the group.


Jan 13:49

And this is in the Sew Powerful Purse Project group on Facebook, right?


Louise 13:53

Yes, correct.


Jan 13:54

Okay. All right. Okay.


Louise 13:56

And if they can't see the album at the top of the group, then all they have to do is click on Media, one of the tab options, Media, and it will give you the option to view all the albums and the first one that appears will be the most recent challenge that we've set. And people can feel free to upload their own photo there, a single photo, preferably, of their purse that goes with the theme. And then if they want to talk about their purse, or show different angles, they can just do an ordinary Facebook post in the group for a bit of Show and Tell.


Jan 14:30

Yeah, and it's always so inspirational to see how people have done the different parts of the purse, and just the clever way people have come about to embellish their purses. It's so amazing to me of how sophisticated these have gotten in the last five years. But at the same time welcoming new people into the group who might be doing something a little more basic. And you know before before we started recording, I was talking about the purse distribution video that was recorded back in December and one of the girls that they talked with is holding the purse, and that purse is a treasure to her. And what makes her future life possible are the contents of that purse. And I looked at that purse, and it's a lovely purse, but it's not what I would call fancy. And the girls get to pick it out. So that girl picked a very unembellished purse as her preference. So for purse makers out there, and you see something that maybe you don't have the skills yet or the time or the inclination, just make it with love, I think is the most important thing. And Love is in the Air for our first challenge, but love is in the purse ongoing, so.


Louise 15:48



Jan 15:50

So okay, so we post one picture in the album, and then all our different views. So, people can ooh and ahh say, how did you do that? And all kinds of nice compliments in the group itself.


Louise 16:03



Jan 16:04

Yeah. So it's been a few weeks, maybe months, since I talked to each of you. So I'm going to ask you what you've been doing since our last podcast, catch our listeners up. Anybody want to raise their hand and go first on that one? Okay, Louise is raising her hand. So, I'm gonna, I'm gonna let you do that. And I'll let Ginny think of her answer because Ginny has a very pained look on her face right now.


Louise 16:31

In the last six months, I've been a bit of a blue. I don't know about Ginny, but we've been in and out of lockdown, the kids homeschooling then they go back to school, then only one of them goes to school while the others are at home. And it's just been like a yo-yo ride for the last six months of getting through this pandemic. And what, at the moment, my two are both homeschooling, well, indefinitely. Hopefully, one of them will go back in March. But we're still waiting on the government to tell us when, but otherwise, we've not been anywhere. We've not seen anyone. And I think this is one of the reasons why I thought we've got to do something. We've got to bring these challenges back to break the monotony that is our lives right now, stuck indoors. We can't go anywhere, Ginny.


Jan 17:21

So Ginny, what about you?


Ginny 17:24

Well, my life isn't really as even as exciting as Louise's because my children are a lot older. So I don't even have home schooling to look forward to. It's really a bit grim actually, round in, in the UK at the moment. The churches are closed, all but the very essential shops are closed. The one good thing is that we've got a dog, so we can take her for walks. But we're only allowed really out of the house once a day to do that. So, my husband and I are splitting up and he'll do the morning shift, and I'll do the afternoon shift or the other way round. We can meet up with one other person to go for a walk. So, I've been meeting up with one of my friends. So, I'm having a bit of a rotor with my friends, and meeting up with them on different days to walk our dogs. But it's a bit difficult. I have one daughter living at home and one who lives quite locally. The other one is up in Scotland so she's a long way away. Haven't seen her since about September time because she wasn't even able to come home at Christmas.


Jan 18:22

And if I recall, your daughter in Scotland is a nurse. Is that right?


Ginny 18:26

That's right. Yes, she is. She isn't trained to work with Corona patients, which we're really relieved about, I must admit. But the hospital is very busy that she's working in, but she's keeping well, which is a real blessing.


Jan 18:42

Well, there's one more thing before we sign off. And I want to ask you about this, Ginny. So back in December, Esther in Zambia recorded a video of the schoolgirls getting their purses, and I love watching that video. It's just under seven minutes long. And the instructor says you're getting 'the purse' and the girls know what that means. They're so excited. And it's just, oh my gosh, it just makes everything worthwhile. But then later on in the video, there's spliced in of people who support Sew Powerful talking about it and one of those people. In fact, the first person is Ginny Buckley! So, when you saw the video, Ginny, what did you think?


Ginny 19:30

I was absolutely amazed. I must admit, I was astounded. I can say I'm very, very flattered to see that. Well, I just can't believe that it was me that I was seeing on the screen. The joy on those girls faces, it was just pure joy. It was absolutely wonderful. And I was just so flattered to have been chosen, that my little bit of video had been chosen to be shown. It was, I can't, I can't you know find the words. It was amazing.


Jan 19:55

Well, so you started off and then Kathy Simonsen talked and then Karen Loke. So, we had three people who are dedicated purse makers and people who have also participated in the podcast. I hadn't seen the video. I didn't know what to expect, either. And all of a sudden, there's Ginny and Karen and Kathy and it's just really very special to see you as part of that. So that was wonderful. I do want to thank both of you for your time. And I want to thank you for taking on the mantle of the challenges. And I think it's going to really be a whole lot of fun and especially for people who may be new to Sew Powerful and don't have that experience of the hundreds of challenges in the background. But I always found it a real motivator to just start making a purse.


Louise 20:47



Jan 20:48

Yeah. Okay. Well, thank you both. I appreciate your time and we will talk to you soon.


Louise 20:54

Thank you, Jan. Bye Ginny.


Jan 20:57

Bye bye.


Ginny 20:57



Jan 21:00

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