I thought it was about time for you to meet my husband. In this episode, Chris gives the inside scoop on being married to a slightly obsessive Sew Powerful volunteer. Chris talks about the role he plays in supporting Sew Powerful and provides some great suggestions for ways spouses and family members of our volunteers can also contribute to the success of Sew Powerful.
A Real Husband of a Sew Powerful Volunteer with Chris Cancila
IN THIS EPISODE
Sew Powerful, sewing for charity, purses for charity, people living in poverty, Zambia, Jason Miles, Cinnamon Miles, St. Louis, Missouri, Houston, Texas, Agape Global, homelessness, ways to support Sew Powerful volunteers
Agape Global, https://www.facebook.com/AGAPEGLOBAL19/
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.
ABOUT THE SEW POWERFUL PODCAST
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: Chris Cancila
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.
Hello, welcome to the Sew Powerful podcast. I've been wanting to do this topic for a long time. And the topic is the Real Husbands of Sew Powerful. And my first "victim" is my very own husband, Chris Cancila. We're going to hear about Sew Powerful from his perspective, from his point of view, being married to somebody who's a volunteer for Sew Powerful, and we'll just get it from a non-purse maker's point of view. So hi, Chris, how are you?
Chris Cancila, Guest 00:57
I'm just fine, thank you.
We've got to stop meeting like this.
I agree. But it's better than nothing.
That's true too. So let me just have you give a little background to people who are listening who may not know you. Where are you from originally?
I'm originally from St. Louis, Missouri.
Okay, and tell us a little bit about your family and your heritage, maybe.
Well, okay, so my father is a second-generation Italian and his father, my grandfather, came over from Italy, turn of the 20th century, and began raising a family in St. Louis. My mother is from Belgium. She met my father during the war, and came over after the war, and married him and has lived within United States until her passing a few years ago.
Okay, and your siblings.
I have three siblings. I have a brother and two sisters. My oldest sister lives in a little town called Washington, Missouri outside of St. Louis. My brother still resides in St. Louis, and my youngest sister lives just north of Fort Worth.
Okay. And you are married.
I am married and married to a very beautiful woman that I happened to meet 50 plus years ago. And we got married in 1970, just celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary last year. And we have two children, two boys, and two granddaughters, teenagers. So, I'm very blessed.
Yeah. So how has COVID been for you, not being able to see family? How did you compensate for that?
Well, it's tough. You know, we've done Zoom meetings with our family and loved ones, but it's not the same. And lots of phone calls and text messages and phone discussions and that kind of thing. We're very happy just this past weekend, to be able to spend an entire day with my sons, daughter-in-law, my two granddaughters and we had a wonderful weekend spending time with them.
Yeah, it was pretty fun to be with our teenage granddaughters. They only had to leave once each to go get their nails done. So, we counted that as a win.
That's right, that's right.
And our younger son was also there. So, we had the whole family, maskless, because you and I have both of our shots.
Fully vaccinated. Okay, and tell us a little bit about your career or are you retired or working or what are you doing?
I am, at this point in my life, semi-retired. I work 20 hours a week for a general contractor in the Houston area; that keeps me plenty busy. And so, I have been in accounting finance for 40 plus years. I've been in a number of different roles from Certified Public Accountant to Controller to CFO to my current role as a part time controller for general contractor.
And who are the customers? Let's give a little plug to your business because I will say, Christmas of 2019, your company made a donation to Sew Powerful and Sew Powerful is very grateful. So, tell us a little bit about your company and why they made that donation.
I work for a company called Axis Builders. And the owners are two very strong Christian men who live their faith. And one of the ways they do that is each holiday season they poll their employees, and they say give us a charity you'd like us to donate money to in your name and we will do it. And so, I gave them Sew Powerful, and they made a very nice donation to Sew Powerful. And they believe in sharing in their blessings, and they do a wonderful job and they've been very kind to me. And it's really been a good example of how to live your faith. So I'm uplifted by that on a regular basis.
And who are their customers?
Our market space is not-for-profit entities. So, we do a lot of business for churches. We've done the faith center for a large Methodist Church. We've done worship centers for a number of churches, fellowship halls, that kind of thing. We've worked for governmental entities, fire departments, and we've also done work in schools. And we've done other not-for-profit type entities work for them as well. Just an example of God providing.
So the company builds and remodels. Is that right? They're a general contractor.
We do new buildings, we do renovations, and we do additions to existing facilities, all those things.
Okay, well, cool. So, so that's your background. And this seems so strange asking you these questions, because I already know all the answers. And I became involved in Sew Powerful back in 2014. I made five purses that first year. And I don't know that I talked about it to anybody, I don't even know, you may or may not even been aware that I was doing it, right?
Well I was aware you were doing something very small scale. Obviously, as you continue to do more and more, it became more increasingly apparent that this was something you are very committed to.
Yeah, right. Okay, well, and I'm interviewing you because you don't make purses. You don't sew but you...
I do not.
You certainly contribute to Sew Powerful. So, let's start with the financial aspect. Being a financial person, you take care of the finances for our family, and we make some donations. So, name a couple of good funds that the Cancilas participate in.
Well, specifically for Sew Powerful, we contribute to the Academic Success Fund. And that is one of the funds that provide scholarship monies so that the students can continue their education beyond the Needs Care School in Zambia.
And that money can go to girls or boys, right?
Yes, that is true, that is true.
Okay, what about a second fund? What what else do you participate in?
We are also Atelier Angels, which means we provide funds for the Purse Project so that they can pay the salaries of the people in Zambia and buy the materials for the products that they are producing in country for the students.
Okay. All right. Very good. And we can't quite see it on the screen here, but you're wearing a shirt that says Blessed are the Purse Makers. And so what are some of the other ways that people can contribute financially?
Well, I mean, you could buy books and t-shirts and, and also, I have, personally, and I would encourage other men whose spouses participate in the charity, you can provide volunteering at trade shows, at the quilt shows. I've done that, helping set up the booth, tear down the booth. I've driven stuff from Houston to Austin, helped unload the truck, then go and pick it up and go back to Houston to store here. So there's lots of opportunities to provide that kind of support.
Okay, well, now that we're pretty solid on your background, why don't we take a quick break and when we come back, we're going to explore some of the ways that you have talked about Sew Powerful in the community. And hopefully that can give some other people some ideas about how that might work for them. So listeners, please stay tuned, we'll be right back.
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 smile.amazon.com 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.
Welcome back. We have been speaking with my husband Chris, who is today's guest on the Sew Powerful podcast, and we've learned a little bit about his background, that he was originally from St. Louis, Missouri. He left out the part about his mom being a hero during World War II. And you'll have to meet my husband sometime and learn that very inspiring story. So Chris, right before the break we were talking about some different ways that people who do not sew could support Sew Powerful. And I'm going to just sort of give this lead-in and you go from there.
Chris and I, about four or five months ago, moved across town, and so we needed to get a new dentist and it was time for our checkup. So, we had an appointment at the same time. And at this particular dentist office, each of the dental chairs is in an open three-sided alcove. So, we were side by side, and I could hear there was conversation going on in the alcove next to me. I was with a hygienist in my little space, and he had a different hygienist over there. And I'm not paying much attention except that then my ears perked up when I started hearing the words "Sew Powerful". So, what prompted this conversation and what did you say?
Well, I was a new patient, and she was trying to get to know me a little bit. And I mentioned that my wife was an active supporter of this charity that's called Sew Powerful, and I helped her with that some. And then she asked what Sew Powerful was. And so, I was able to have a discussion with her about what Sew Powerful's mission was, how they worked and how you and so many other women make purses to support the project. And so we had a nice discussion about that.
Okay, so here's the real test. What did you say? What is Sew Powerful all about? What kind of description did you give?
Well I explained to her Sew Powerful is a Christian ministry to young girls in Africa, and specifically in Zambia, who are struggling with being able to complete their education. And I explained that if the girls don't finish seventh grade satisfactorily, that's the end of their education, it's over. And so, one of the problems these girls encounter is their inability to stay in school because they can't address certain basic feminine hygiene needs. And so, one of the things that Sew Powerful does is they make purses. And the reason they make purses is so that the girls can have a place to store their sanitary products while they're in school. And I explained in the Ngombe Compound where the school is, they actually make materials that go into the purses, and then the volunteers for the charity supply the purses. And so, you know, just a good discussion about that.
And she was really impressed.
Well, and and I have to say, I was so impressed, too, and so grateful that you did that. And, you know, men of a certain age, and I might say that you might be in that category, might not be too comfortable talking about menstrual health management, which is the reason the girls aren't going to school; they don't have the supplies, so they stay home. And we're trying to alleviate that, not only in the Ngombe Compound, but as we expand into other areas of Zambia.
But you know, for other husbands or men out there that may just feel uncomfortable with this topic, what do you say to them? I mean, you were just so forthright about it.
Well, it's a natural part of your existence, you know. These, these girls have needs that they need to be taken care of. And so, you know, you shouldn't be embarrassed to discuss those kinds of things. I mean, it's not like we're opening up a book and revealing some big dark secret. The only secret is that these poor girls don't have access to the products. So, I think it's important that we shine a light on these issues, and you shouldn't be embarrassed or ashamed to talk about those things. I mean, it's biology. It's basic human function. And so, I don't see any reason to be embarrassed by it.
Cool, thank you. Last week, or maybe it was the week before you happened to be at the post office handling some envelopes for Sew Powerful. And that brought up another discussion. So, tell our listeners what happened then.
Well, so I was at the post office and the lady behind the counter was, you know, I was buying postage. And so, she was printing out the stamps and putting them on there, checking the addresses and such. And so, she said, so what is this Sew Powerful? And I said, well I said, do you sew? She said, well, yeah, I sew. I said, well, Sew Powerful is a charity. Our purpose is to help girls in Zambia who are unable to continue their education because they don't have access to hygiene products. And so, volunteers make purses, then you send them to Zambia, and they have access to these materials. And then they can store the materials in these purses, and they're able to stay in school. So, it's just a very brief discussion. And you know, she, when she said she sewed, I said, you know, let me give you my wife's name and email address, and you can send her an email, and she can give you more information about the charity. So that's what we did.
Well, thank you for doing that. I have to admit, so far, I haven't gotten an email from her. But from now on, you're going to be walking around with some Sew Powerful cards.
That you can hand out and I'll put my email address right on there. Okay. So, what would you say to other husbands and people who don't sew for Sew Powerful? What would you say about how they might consider supporting Sew Powerful or their spouse or family member who does sew for Sew Powerful, what would you say?
Well, I think first thing, I would encourage you to appreciate the level of commitment and sacrifice that your spouse puts into this charity. I mean, I know you put in a tremendous amount of time on the charity, and then I am blessed to be able to help you with that. And I'm grateful you found an outlet that enables you to be passionate and committed about things because you guys may not realize this, but once Jan commits to something she's all in, there's no part way with her, you get all of her, whether you like it or not. And so that's, that's something I've always admired about her. And you know, I think you other spouses should admire your own partner's commitment to the charity and support it to your fullest. And that means being there for moral support. That means making sure that you can contribute financially to any extent that you can, and providing not only moral support, but actual physical support at shows or helping to ship stuff or whatever might come about. We put on a couple of TV shows together, you know, talking about Sew Powerful, been part of the audience at those shows. So, there's lots of opportunities to be able to, to provide assistance and moral support.
So you chose to attend the Sew Powerful Masterclass that Jason and Cinnamon Miles are conducting. And you did the first one by watching the video replay. But then after that you attended the next two in person. And as we record this, the fourth one hasn't happened yet, it will be this coming week, sort of simultaneously for publication. But on the first session, that was all about poverty and
I just found it very enlightening. Did you have any new takes on poverty after you listened to that session?
Yeah, I mean, my take on that: poverty is somewhat subjective, but particularly in developing countries. It is just absolutely devastating to people's lives. It interferes with your ability to have a basic human existence in many cases. And it's really something that we should all as a global community be concerned about. And I applaud Jason and Cinnamon and Sew Powerful for trying to address that need. But because we're so far away from it, it's very difficult to appreciate the gravity of the situation. But it's true. To hear stories of kids taking their lunch and, and eating half of it and then taking the rest home to share with the rest of their family. It touches your soul.
Well, you know, the other thing besides the financial poverty that struck me from that was other ways that we could be in poverty, spiritually, mentally, relationship-wise.
So sometimes when we see those who are struggling financially, they may be less in poverty in other areas of their lives than those of us who don't have food insecurity, for instance. So, to me that that was an eye-opening part of that presentation. The next Masterclass was the basics about Sew Powerful, a little bit about the history and chronologically how it all came together. Did you find new information by attending that?
Yeah, yeah, I knew some of the story. But it was good to hear it from the source, Jason and Cinnamon. The fact that they had been there and stumbled into this meeting with this woman, Esther, and all the developments from there and their desire to help out in whatever way they could. A) you know, I don't believe anything happens by coincidence. I think people are put together in situations and that's just God's hand working. And so, I think that's part of what happened with Jason and Cinnamon and Esther. But absent that, the story of how they came to support them to the level they are now, it was really inspiring to hear.
Okay, and the third session was how we can use our vocation or how God uses our gifts, and our experiences to help those in need. And I found that really interesting. And I think about your talents and gifts. Talk a little bit about that session and talk about Agape Global while you're at it.
Sure, so that session was like, again, I certainly appreciate the talent and skills of the purse makers. But you know, the way I can contribute in my small way, is I file the franchise tax return for Sew Powerful in Texas. It's not a big deal, but somebody has to do it, and I'm happy to do it. You know, it's no big deal. I think that it's important that we all have an understanding that there's something everybody can do to help in any way that's possible. And so, my way it is primarily financial.
You mentioned Agape Global, which is another charity that I volunteer for. And that's a local new charity here in Houston that is dedicated to providing food for homeless people. Like any large city, Houston has a problem with homeless people not having shelter, not having access to food on a regular basis. And so, what Agape Global tries to do is fill some of the gaps. I'm trying to get them started up as a charity, get their books set up. And then I have cooked for a couple of occasions that they have. I'm not a great cook, but I can make pasta. And so, you know, I made a bunch of spaghetti, and then take them to people there. And it was just my way of being able to help out.
Okay. Well, this has been a really nice discussion with my husband over Zoom. And, you know, we've been married for 50 years; we celebrated our anniversary last fall. And now you sort of know why I love this man and why we've been married for so long. And, you know, there's all kinds of ways that he supports me when I get in my zone, and I'm working on something. He'll make the dinner, or he'll take care of the dogs, or he'll run the errands, and he's just been so supportive. And I just want to publicly thank you, Chris, for doing that. It means a lot to me. So, thank you so much.
I'm always in awe of your ability to be there for people. You are one of the most caring, kindest people I've ever known. And the world's a better place with you being in it, so.
Right back at you, Chris Cancila. Well, normally I say I hope to see you soon, but since you're about 10 feet away from me, I know I'll see you soon.
There you go.
All right. Well, we're gonna sign off now. And thank you so much for doing this, Chris. I appreciate it.
It was great to be able to talk to you.
If what you've heard today inspires you to want to make a difference, I urge you to explore the Sew Powerful website at www.sewpowerful.org. 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.
ABOUT THE HOST
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 Examiner.com. Reach Jan with comments or suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.