Sew Powerful co-Founder, Jason Miles discusses the ways volunteers serve the organization. Whether you sew or not, if the mission of Sew Powerful touches your heart, there is a place for you here. Be sure to check out the chapter called 'Help Wanted' in the 2nd edition of the We Are Sew Powerful book for even more exciting opportunities.
Help Wanted with Jason Miles
IN THIS EPISODE
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.
Sew Powerful website: Volunteers Page — sewpowerful
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.
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.
Last week we spoke with Leslie Unruh, volunteer number one for Sew Powerful and it got me thinking, I bet there's lots of opportunities to volunteer at Sew Powerful. And if you've been listening to our podcast, you feel like you'd like to join us. So I thought, well, maybe I should talk to Jason Miles, the co-founder and CEO of Sew Powerful and find out exactly what kind of help he needs at Sew Powerful. And sure enough, he wrote a chapter in the new book called Help Wanted. So today we're going to talk specifically about that chapter with Jason Miles. Hi, Jason, how are you today?
Jason Miles, Guest 01:00
Good. How are you doing?
Oh, very good, very good. Why don't you start out and just sort of give us a general idea of what people could do if they're interested in volunteering in general. And then we'll get into some of the specifics of how they could actually volunteer.
Sure. Well, I think it's important to just point out that we're an all-volunteer organization. So, I mean, the critical aspect of what we need people's help with is, like, I mean, it's really, really important that we have volunteer help, because we have no paid staff. This is just, you know, us all working together as volunteers. I'm a volunteer, Cinnamon is a volunteer. And so that's, I think the first thing to point out to people. So there's, there is no professional team anywhere, doing anything other than us all together working as volunteers. And so we desperately need many, many, many types of roles. And we're growing quickly. And there are a lot of opportunities to help. And so I think that's the most important thing to point out to people. And so if you have a professional background, or just a passion for, you know, certain activities or efforts, then we would love to talk to you about the opportunity to use those in support of the Sew Powerful mission.
And you have a place on the website where people can find those opportunities?
We do. Yeah, we have, right in the footer, there's a section that has a link for the job opportunities, we try to list them. And then there's an online application process. We have a set of standard, you know, job opportunities, Regional Coordinator roles that we can talk through and that kind of thing. But I would, I would just encourage everybody to dream big and think about what skills and talents you bring to the party. And if you're interested, reach out to us, and we'll find an opportunity to plug you in, and connect and, and that would be terrific.
Well, and let me just say, I'll put a link to that job opening in the video that we'll produce and it will be in the Sew Powerful page in Facebook, so you'll be able to get more information there. Okay, so I'm reading through the chapter and it's almost like a how-to manual on to becoming a volunteer. So it's really powerful. You have something that that you're asking the volunteers to sort of embrace. And that's what, I guess we would call in the corporate world, an elevator speech. So am I going to put you on the spot here to ask you to recite a little elevator speech on what is Sew Powerful?
No, not at all. I mean, I'm happy to do it. I always do it differently depending on who I'm talking to. But my general elevator speech is we combat extreme poverty in a very challenging place, Lusaka, Zambia, by creating jobs that produce purposeful products. And so I talk a little bit about the purposeful products, the purses, the soap, reusable feminine hygiene pad product, the school uniforms. Those ideas swirl together in my version of an elevator pitch. So depending on how long people are interested, how much they're engaging, I go fast or go slow.
Yeah, absolutely. Well, if one of the statistics that you quote in the chapter is from the UN, and I'll read this, and you can comment. According to the UN, when a teen girl fails to complete high school, or called Secondary School in Zambia, she is four times more likely to contract HIV, will have a 40% higher pregnancy rate, and is seven times more likely to have a teenage marriage. How does Sew Powerful address that?
Sure, yeah, I mean, those are shocking and sad numbers. Just as context in Zambia, it's roughly 8% of the children that will graduate from secondary school. So the vast majority do not, you know, they don't graduate, and therefore all of those statistics generally would apply. And so that's the reality in Zambia broadly, and then when you look at a place like Ngombe Compound, which is the poorest neighborhood, it's the most challenging slum, those numbers are even more catastrophic, I guess you can say. And so our challenge from the very beginning has been to really work hard to enable or equip or empower the parents of the community, the moms, in particular, of the community, to try to make a difference in the girls' lives. And, you know, it's not our, in a technical sense, it's not our place. I mean, it's in a literal sense, it's not our place, it's their place. It is their community.
And so I think we're, we've always from the beginning, try to get our mind right around what it is to come alongside a community. And the goal is to get the parents involved and engaged. And we, the first program, of course, was the school uniforms, that created a job opportunity for the parents. But it also gave the students a really nice school uniform, which was a big, big deal. And so that was the first purposeful product and the ability to have clothing and, you know, a uniform to go to school was a vital part of the first step.
And then, of course, went beyond that with reusable feminine hygiene pad product, the soap and the food. And so, I mean, I think those elements go together to try to improve the academic success outcomes. And I guess, if there's an underlying theme of what we're trying to accomplish, it's enabling parents to have purposeful work that creates or bolsters that environment for academic success for the children so that those statistics that you read, you know, don't play out in people's, in kids' lives. And to the greatest extent possible, we want to try to mitigate that.
So I guess at the base of the volunteerism is the purse. Is that right?
Yeah, I think in a lot of ways. I mean, it's been the thing that we've been able to connect with a lot of people on, sure. Yeah. I mean, obviously, anybody can pray. Many, many people can give. But in terms of the hands-on practical participation, I think the purse is just a fantastic way to get engaged. Yeah.
And so I know that Sew Powerful participates in quilt shows, you, we have this podcast, you have a very active website, and people through their word of mouth and social media very, very active. And I have to say, one of the kindest Facebook groups in all of Facebook land is the Sew Powerful purse project. But that's a great way to reach people who sew and to make purses, but there's a place for people who don't sew at Sew Powerful also ,right?
Oh, sure. Absolutely. You know, I mean, I think we're trying to work hard to connect with people who are passionate about seeing the mission, you know, lived out and if they can make a purse, then that's a great on-ramp. But if they can't, there's certainly other activities, advocacy work, doing things like a birthday fundraiser on Facebook, just sharing the story, you know, sharing the book, there are many things that you can do to just help us advocate for the plight of kids in, you know, in Zambia where we work and also for the parents. And, you know, there's a, there's a, if you have the desire to help, the things that you can do are almost endless. I can't, I can't create a desire in people's hearts to want to help. But if they have it, then there's a lot of things they can do. And we're happy to tee up a lot of ideas and suggestions. Yeah.
You talk about the book as the vehicle, basically. So I'm just going to sort of tick off some of these suggestions, and have you comment on them. So, number one was leave a review on Amazon about the book that we're talking about here.
Yeah, that'd be huge help. Obviously, you want to read the book, and then leave a review. And if you bought the book on Amazon, then when you go back in under your account name, you'll be listed as a verified purchaser when you leave a review, and that's a little bit elevated status. It's kind of, kind of a more trusted review. And so that's a huge, huge help. The algorithm in Amazon is very straightforward. The number of purchases that occur and the number of reviews and the quality of those reviews all go into helping it raise the visibility of the specific book. And the We Are Sew Powerful book is the second edition now. As you listen to this, it will be out there in the wild. We're literally working on it right now, but it'll be live by the time you hear this and we would love your support for it. Yeah.
The other suggestion you had was to share the book that you bought with a friend.
Yeah, sure. I mean, you know, some people are book people, and some people aren't. But if you're, if you're a book fan, you like the bookstores, then you're probably a book giver. And if I can just ask you politely to please give our book to your family for birthday presents, Christmas presents, I mean, for friends, for, for any reason, any good reason, give them a copy of our book. If it's the one that you purchased, and that you read and that you want to pass along to them, of course, slightly used, and nobody will mind, will they? But if you want to buy them a copy, then that would be terrific as well. And it's a huge blessing. All the proceeds from the book go to support the mission, and, you know, straight to the bottom line of Sew Powerful. So it is a fundraiser, as well as an advocacy tool. Yeah.
Here's a fun one. Take a selfie with a book and share it socially.
Fantastic. If you're an Instagram person, or Facebook or whatever, yeah, of course, that's a great way to share it. And then of course, have a link to it on Amazon. In Amazon, if you look at any product, or in particular, our book, there's a little Share button. When you click on that, it'll give you a link that you can send around and share with people. Yeah.
And then here's one I didn't know about, is that bulk orders for a group or a church Bible study. Tell us about that.
Oh, sure. Yeah, well, it's set up through a tool called KDP, Kindle Direct Publishing, it's an Amazon product. So we've self, it's a self published book. So if you wanted a box of 10, or 20, or 30, we can get basically at author cost is what they call it, discounted pricing, and just have them sent to you. We're happy to do that. So just contact us through the website, send us an email, and we're happy to, you know, if you want to do a big batch for a women's retreat or missions conference, or, you know, some kind of home group or small group, whatever you want to do, we'd love to help facilitate that. And that way, you don't have to pay full retail, you know, for them.
That's great. Book club, ladies, are you listening?
So here's another one. I'm a big Amazon shopper and have become more so in the last few weeks as we've all been quarantined. But there's a tip here about shopping on Amazon that can benefit Sew Powerful.
Yeah, the smile program. Is that what you mean? Yeah, yeah, so the smile program is pretty straightforward. I think it's just smile.amazon.com is the URL you go to. And then Sew Powerful is listed there as a charity that you can select so that you support Sew Powerful with every purchase you make on Amazon. So whenever you go to smile.amazon.com.com your purchases are all, you know, a small percentage is going to support Sew Powerful. So we get we get those checks, and it's always fantastic. We're like, hey, awesome.
Yeah, I just bought a box of batteries and a box of envelopes. And Sew Powerful is going to benefit from that, so,
There you go. You're making a difference around the world because of just a few clicks of the mouse. I mean, you were gonna buy that stuff anyway, right?
So it's just literally Top of Mind thing to make sure you do that when you're going to shop on Amazon anyway. Yeah.
Right. There's also the Sew Powerful parables. And those are, they're actually in two different formats. But why don't you talk about that for us.
Sure. Yeah, we had a board member come to us a few years back. And he said that he was, and I knew this because he's been my friend for like 25 years. He said that he was working real hard on a parable writing project. He just retired and he was writing these parables and they're basically if I could describe them as sort of a mix between Dr. Seuss and, like, the parables in the New Testament, you know, it's like, if Jesus talked like Dr. Seuss, or something like that. And so he's, and they're just beautiful stories, they're really, really nicely put together. And he's written them about all kinds of Bible-inspired themes and stories, and sometimes just personal-inspired themes and stories. And they all have a very meaningful, heartfelt point. They're all very fun to read. And they are available as one-off, available, you know, just as a digital download on our site, sewpowerful.org. And then you just search for parables in the menu, I think it's sewpowerful.org/parables in the URL.
And then he's also got a couple that he's working through on books and he's got one that's out as a book. And I think the second one is going to come out soon. And so those are available as a giftable, you know, printed copy as well. And I'd really encourage you to go check them out. And then he's done all of them as basically, in essence, you know, Sound Cloud-like audible style. I guess you could call it a parable podcast of sorts. So you can go listen to it. And he's read them frequently. But he's also gotten other people to read them, sometimes really interesting. Like, you'll have people that he knows that have like an African dialect accent or some like that read them, and you know, that kind of thing. And he's really done a fantastic job producing them. And all the proceeds from any of the sales like of the books, go to support Sew Powerful, and so it's really an honor to be able to promote them. And we call them Sew Powerful Parables. Yeah.
So if you are looking for a podcast and search on Sew Powerful, you'll find our podcast and you'll also find the Sew Powerful Parable podcast. There's also quite a video library that has amassed over the last couple of years. What kind of content is there?
Sure, yeah, we will we try to add as much as we can. Two types of video work we have basically. One is just real updates from Esther, our program director in Lusaka, who will do stuff on her phone. She just, you know, sends them to me through WhatsApp. And I put them together and make them available. And then every year, generally, every year we go in the summertime, and we try to do professional video, and do as much of that as we can and then share that. So there's a mix of that on our website and we, and as well as on Facebook and YouTube. So happy to have you forward around videos, and use those as your advocacy tools whenever you can.
Okay, well, why don't we take a quick break here. And when we come back, we're going to talk about some more tips of how you can spread the word about Sew Powerful specifically in your community.
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 smile.amazon.com and designate Sew Powerful as your preferred charity, Amazon will donate a portion of your purchase right back to Sew Powerful.
Welcome back. We're talking with Jason, co-founder and CEO of Sew Powerful. And now, back to our podcast.
Jason has been sharing with us some of the tools that are available, if you want to be a volunteer for Sew Powerful, and all these tools are available to assist you in ensuring the mission of the organization. Next, we're going to talk about some tips that Jason has written in a chapter of his book, We Are Sew Powerful, second edition. And the name of the chapter is Help Wanted. So we're going to talk about what you can do, what a volunteer could do specifically in their community. And I thought this was really fascinating. You recommend that people go to their local bookstore, now not a chain bookstore, that would probably be too fruitless, but a local bookstore. What could somebody do in a local bookstore?
Sure. Yeah. I mean, a lot of local stores will have managers who are open to having, you know, new books presented to them. And so ask them about carrying the We Are Sew Powerful book. It is an easy opportunity to strike up a conversation and have a copy in your hand, I think probably it would be the simplest thing, but there's absolutely an opportunity to do that. So that's a simple one. And, you know, you never know if there's a church that has a Christian bookstore in your community. A lot of large churches will have bookstores, you know, the opportunity to get the book in as many, you know, resource locations as possible is obviously beneficial. Yeah,
Well, and the first edition book was the number one bestseller in the charity and philanthropy category. That's got to be an incentive for a bookstore to carry the title, right?
Yeah, it's done well. When we launched it, everybody really rallied around it and it was really neat to see the enthusiasm for it. Now, the first edition came out in 2016, I think. Excuse me, I don't remember the month. But this, we're hopeful that the second edition will do as well or even better.
Yeah, I'm sure will. And then you say, go to a sewing fabric or quilt store and strike up a conversation with the manager of the store. What could what could potentially happen there?
Well, same idea, I think you've got an opportunity there to talk to them about the purse making project. Many stores are doing that, as, you know, in-store events, or they'll do special emphasis months, or they'll do a charity sewing effort. All the Baby Lock retailers nationally did that this last winter, and it was just a phenomenal outcome. They just rallied around the purse project, really just in an amazing way. And so your local fabric store or sewing machine store might be interested in doing that same thing, and you'll probably, if you're familiar with them, know kind of what they've done in the past. And so it's an opportunity to suggest to them that they have the Sew Powerful purse program be an emphasis project, you know, in the future and/or carry the book and/or, you know, do both? Yeah,
You have a suggestion here. It's basically cold calling on some churches in your community that's not necessarily your home church, but other churches and other denominations and asked to meet with the sewing group there at the church. How does that work out?
Sure. I mean, I think a lot of the regional coordinators that we're working with around the country have started to do this kind of thing where they've identified sewing groups, quilt groups, usually, you know, inside of a church, women's ministry program, or whatever. And it's an opportunity for you to reach out and get to know them. Some churches are more insulated than others and are open to outsiders coming in. But ideally, if you know somebody there have a friend or something like that, you know, you can have an easy on-ramp into meeting the group. I think there's an opportunity to create a circle of enthusiasm and interest inside churches in your community through the quilt groups and people who are, you know, the sewing groups. It can be challenging to go to a missions pastor and say, Hey, you know, are you interested in hearing about a new ministry? Because they've just heard about so many, you know, they just have so many things coming at them. But if you can say, hey, this quilt group would like to work on a project. It's in support of a program in Zambia. What missions pastor wouldn't say, yeah, the quilt group can knock themselves out. And you know, it gives you an opportunity to do meaningful hands-on work through the church in a way that really does make a difference in terms of the kingdom, and reaching out to those that are really "the least of these" in a desperate place.
Last week, Leslie talked about how she made an acquaintance through her church, which led to her belonging to a group, which led to many people in that group supporting Sew Powerful. Another suggestion you have are school and community leaders, like librarians and teachers.
Yeah, for sure. You know, there are a lot of sewing programs at schools that had machines and they don't have a teacher, or you know, like, just down the road from us in Auburn High School we've met with the Home Ec teacher a few times, and she had a roomful of machines. She didn't know even know how to get them repaired or going or anything. They were really high end machines, didn't have anybody to teach the class. So, you know, there there are resources in community, in public schools, where you might be a great assistance to teachers who are overwhelmed, overworked, don't have time to sort something out. And the purse project, the beginner purse project would be a fantastic little, you know, opportunity for, you know, you go into a school and work with the teacher to say, Hey, can we make a difference in the lives of these girls in Zambia, and teach the sewing skill in the school? Yeah.
And maybe even as an extracurricular activity, too.
The fifth suggestion you had was to approach some business and corporate leaders, and you said that might need to take a different twist. And I'll read to you what you suggested. You underscore that "we focus on employment for women to empower academic success."
Yeah. I mean, at the heart of it, we're a job creation effort in many ways. And I think that really does resonate with entrepreneurs, small business owners, corporate leaders. That's very different than a handout. It's very different than most charitable efforts. And so I do think that that topic will resonate effectively with, you know, entrepreneurs and small business owners. So I don't think there should be any hesitation in saying to them, Hey, this is a program that deserves your attention. And, you know, to the extent that they're interested in rally around it, supporting it, having it be woven into their, you know, presentation customers or whatever, that would be them for them to decide. But if you know business leaders in your community, certainly worth a conversation, especially once you learn more about Sew Powerful and you can answer some of the basic questions. If it's okay, I just want to go back because there was one other example that we wanted, I wanted to touch on and that's what Vivian has done.
Oh, that's coming up.
Oh, okay. All right. Sorry. I didn't want to spoil it. Go ahead.
That's okay. So your next your next section of this chapter was how to include people, and Vivian is going to come up in this one. So you said, ask people to help. You know, it's the ask, I think. So, talk a little bit about that.
Sure. Yeah, you know, I think the purse project lends itself to being a group effort, if you want it to be. You know, you can do it in, just as a group of seamstresses. But you could, you know, you could also do it with other people who don't know how to sew. You can have them do the note cards, for example. A note card included in every purse goes to the individual girl who receives a purse, and having those nicely written, meaningfully written, with a thoughtful quote, or comment or poem or prayer, some word of encouragement, that's a really important part of the project. And so you know, you don't, you don't have to know how to sew to do that. And so that's one way. You know, and I think...
And can I bring up an example?
We had a sew-a-thon in Houston, where I lived and a lady said she was touched by the program, but she didn't sew and I said, well, there's a note card writing station right here. And there are prompts that are available there in the Facebook group. And she took those prompts, and she ran with them. And she wrote out 100 note cards, while everybody else was sewing. And so, I mean, her contribution was just as important as those making purses, I felt.
Yeah, and it's really important. The girls, when they receive their purses, they get those note cards out. And they're so fascinated. You know, like in the olden days, when you, like if you had pen pals or, I don't know at school projects, if you ever got correspondence from like a class in Ukraine or, you know, something like that, where you've gotten foreign correspondence. It's just mesmerizing, and it's, that's what's happening with these girls in Zambia, they get these note cards, and they're like, wow, they, the print looks different, the word choices are different. They want to know what this, you know, this American or who, you know, Australian, or whoever this, this purse maker has, has got to say. And those note cards are a very important keepsake.
And it's a really an opportunity to encourage the girl to, to pray, to stay in school, to trust God, to believe for the best, to not get discouraged, to stay, you know, stay with education. All of the positive, you know, sentiment that, you know, that you would hope you would have received if you were in that situation, you can pour into the notes.
Absolutely. Here's one that I wouldn't have thought of had I not encountered it in your book, but what a fantastic idea. Ask for a formal blessing.
Yeah, and this is the Vivian,
So that's her story. So Vivian's just a great great friend of Sew Powerful and is made many, many purses, and has a ministry that's a sewing-related ministry. And one of the things that they did was they went to their pastoral team, and asked them to basically do a formal blessing over the purses before they sent them to us. And when I first heard that, I was like, now that's, that's thinking. And that's cool. Because, you know, of course, the formal blessing we as, as Christians, we believe that, that there's power in prayer. And we absolutely believe that makes, you know, a meaningful difference in the, in the kingdom, in the spirit world. We believe that. I mean, we're, we believe in the power of prayer. But it also, of course, included the pastors in the project. And it also, of course, included the entire congregation.
This is Vivian.
When the pastoral team did the blessing, they explained the program. And so just for social impact, and that kind of thing it was a very smart thing to do. And it was an advocacy effort in that regard. But it got the whole congregation rallying together around the purses. And yeah, when I, when I heard that, I just thought, Man, that's, if every purse maker did that, with their church, if they go to a church, you know, if every one of them would do that step, how much further would the program be because so many people have been exposed to it and heard what's going on? It's just, it's a fantastic idea.
I thought so too. I thought it was great. The last tip you have is to coordinate a sewing event. And you have some tips in there, whether organizing is your thing or not, you know, how could somebody start to get this going?
Yeah, yeah, well, you know, obviously if you're, if you're a seamstress, and you're used to making, you know, making quilts or, you know, doing projects, you might be a part of a guild, or sewing group of some variety. And a lot of times they'll do retreats, special events, they'll do, you know, activities together. And so I think it's an opportunity to weave the Sew Powerful purse program into your guild or group's, you know, efforts and activities. And, you know, these things can be planned out far in advance. So maybe, you know, you have to say, hey, next year, and we do the Sew Powerful purse or whatever. And that's fine. We'll be doing this for a long time. And so I think it's a good opportunity. And it's an opportunity again, to advocate for the program, to explain it, to explain the merits of it and why it's so critical that the girls in Zambia get the reusable feminine hygiene pad product and, and the moms get jobs out of the deal. You get a chance to tell the story and also include a broader group, you know, as you, as you make purses.
Well, Jason, thank you so very much for your time today. This has been enlightening. And if you are listening and you want to volunteer, there'll be more information right after this that will tell you how you can locate our website and find out more. Have a good day. We'll talk to you soon. Bye bye.
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.