International Fair Trade Day, May 11, Ten Thousand Villages, Winnipeg.
Twenty-three bags sold.
Five hundred and twenty dollars raised.
Thirty-two Thousand, One Hundred and Eighteen= new total.
Time well spent.
What had begun at the retreat was growing little shoots and stems, the first which was to occur at this little church on Easter Sunday. Armed with my Ipad, which held the records of all the hours I spent on prep for that glorious women's retreat, I approached the podium with joy in my step. It was even easier the second time to share the story of the bags4darfur project. I felt grateful for everything I heard myself say, and realized again that I'd inadvertently become a part of something ordinary but miraculous.
One of the themes that I focused a little more intentionally on was that of death and resurrection. It wasn't a contrived attempt at being relevant at Easter time in a church, but more a like an exciting time to share out loud something that I've learned over and over again during the years of sewing, selling, being excited, being bored, feeling exhilarated, feeling totally dead, dried up, has-been, even mildly embarrassed. I've learned (often kicking and screaming and panicking) that death is an important part of rebirth. Death must be accepted, even embraced if you're mature enough to push it that far. I usually cower and wail, snivel and worry myself. Still, I've tried never to force the project. I've tried not to push out bags that I'm bored of (although I still have done that, its part of the monotony of a longer term project). I've tried not to keep riding a wave when it seems clear that it's turned into a tepid parking lot puddle.
And I have been going through a rather dead stage. No energy for creativity. Sick and tired of photographing and uploading, and deciding on prices, and maintaining sites, followers, and e-mails. I've been hard on myself about that sometimes, but still sure about the conviction not to force anything that really wasn't coming from the heart.
So when Bonnie approached me about sharing the story at her retreat, I got a new glimmer of excitement. I could spend some time re-reading all the years I'd recorded on the blog, I could write it all out in some coherent way, and then I could speak it out in one continuous dialogue. I was also intimidated and afraid, but it felt like the good kind of fear that stretches and grows a person.
Almost immediately following that first presentation, I was asked to do a repeat performance at Mitchell Community Church. Because they were going easy on me, and allowing me to simply repeat it all verbatim off my ipad, I quickly agreed. It felt like a rebirth again. A new way to breathe life into the continuing passion of doing something tangible for situations that are much too big to change, but ought not to be ignored. And it felt amazing to do it in another way- in speaking out, lipstick on, clothing unstained, looking out across a room of adults! So much of what I've done for bags 4 darfur has been amidst the clutter of my home, un-showered, wearing clothing sprinkled in ketchup and chocolate chips, multi-tasking kids, food, fabric bits, pets, and feeling like the only adult in townships and ranges.
There are new tentacles and shoots growing out of bags4darfur, and I'm lucky to be the happy gardener. It's been a pretty terrible winter, and for all the pinning in the world, I've been hard pressed to garner the right kind of inspiration to truly pour myself into creating. The opportunities to write and speak have given me new hope, and a tentative excitement for new things on the horizon.
Meanwhile, I have been approached by the manager of Ten Thousand Villages, plaza drive, Winnipeg to partner with her store in celebrating World Fair Trade Day on May 11. She has graciously offered to give me a spot in the store to sell bags, promote the project, and take part in the day's festivities. They will allow me to donate any money from the sale of bags to the project of my choice. Interestingly enough, I had just done a little research for the most recent donation of $777.00 and found that Mennonite Central Committee
is part of a project entitled:
MCC’s Sudan: Coming Home campaign, a five-year campaign ending in 2013, enables MCC to support projects including those that empower women, strengthen livelihoods, build peace, promote nonviolent solutions to conflict and improve food security.
How cool that the money I just donated to MCC was going to be part of a project to empower women, and teach someone how to sew?! And then the funny little connection to MCC's Ten Thousand Villages, following so quickly on the heels of that discovery.
In this endless winter on the prairies, these signs of resurrection and rebirth are particularly exciting.
And now, I must sew!
I've resurrected my passport bag. It hasn't carried a passport since 1991, when a friend and I spent six weeks exploring Australia, sleeping in hostels, partying on beaches, and jumping off cranes.
It's been a while.
Twenty-one years since my husband and I travelled together. On Thursday, we'll give it another go, and celebrate our nearly 21 years together in Quito, Ecuador.
I didn't want to get a new bag, I wanted to carry my old one. The one with history.
So, I "be-raggled" it. (a brand new hippy version of "be-dazzling).
I patched some holes, added some signature touches- a stretch of ancient tape measure measuring 45 to 47.. the next few years of my life. A custom made button by my friend Lory, made out of home made shrinky dink, with the words "bags4darfur" stamped all over it. A salvage edge of fabric sent by Lettuce in England.
A few more patches on the back, and a tiny bit of needlework from a decaying leather glove that my friend Rosa gifted me many years ago.
I'm taking little bits of home and my friends with me when I go. I'm taking little pieces of history, and memories, and thoughts of my younger self as the explorer.
When I get back, it will be Good Friday. I'll have a day to find my head, and then I'll be presenting again. This time at Mitchell Community Church. I'll be like a preacher or something. I hope my papa will be proud.
I'll tell the story again about bags4darfur. The surprises, the redemptions, the miracles, the beautiful people. The hope, the faith, the energy to carry on. And I'll watch it all come to life again- it will remind me of another story we never tire of hearing- that ancient story of death and of resurrection.
So until then, au revior.
I've been known to agree to things that I in no way know how to do.
As a terrified university student, I was so afraid of failing my statistics course that I studied and memorized obsessively, sometimes waking at night from reviewing formulas in lucid dreams. At the end of the course, my final grade ranked second in the course, and my professor asked me to work as his assistant the following year.
I said yes. But it mostly involved running a computer lab and I had absolutely no-zero-zilch experience on a computer. As in, I didn't know how to turn it on, I didn't know what a window was, I knew absolutely nothing aside from keyboarding. Fortunately, before the fall commenced, my husband's pursuit of education led us away from Winnipeg and away from that terrifying room full of clickety clack computers that I had pretended to know how to teach. I still feel sick at the thought of it. All those students looking at me as I mumbled into my neck.... mmmmm I dunno...... sorry......
In the eighties I signed up to join Mennonite Disaster Service, an organisation dedicated to bringing aid to people affected by natural disasters. I was terrible at swinging a hammer, I couldn't measure a door or window if my life depended on it (as it often felt that it did), I sucked at laying linoleum, and I once spent four days in the rafters of a house swinging at nails in an effort to reinforce beams affected by a house fire.
Except that I rarely made contact with the nails. Any of them.
Most recently, I have agreed to present at a women's retreat. Being one to learn from my mistakes (dwell on them, obsess over them....) I fastidiously checked for evidence of hammers, nails, rafters, window wells, computer labs, and irritated students. Then I said yes. But now I'm remembering that I have no experience in this field. I've never monologued before a group of people, except that time I went on tour with my Capernwray musical ensemble, that other time I had to "give my testimony" so I could get baptized in the Mennonite church, and that one or two times I blurted out confessions in the semi-light of camptire during youth group.
Not a solid background. Not a winning portfolio.
I've been sewing bags out of this-es and thats for so long now that its like I can't remember why. I have this vague worry that I'll find myself standing in front of a group of expectant women, gripping a handful of rags, and mumbling nervously- apologetically, and saying "duh" a great deal.
I'm pretty sure I'm not good at monologue- I tend to be more of the listener than the lecturer. And that's where you come in. Time for a little roll play- You are going to a day long retreat with 29 other strong, creative, deep thinking women from many faith backgrounds and walks of life. You are looking forward to being in this rich environment and hoping to come away from it inspired to be more fully your own self. To more willingly offer your self, your gifts, your weaknesses and sensibilities to your world. To become more authentically the person you were created to be. You imagine the smell of hot coffee, fresh bread, an old farmhouse filled with character pieces and colored bits of glass, rooms warmed by wood fire, the wisdom of women, the beauty of art.
There are four presenters:
Janet Kroeker runs a wool company, making and selling comforters, pillows and mattresses. From the cuttings of her production, she gathers up the bits of wool, shapes them into balls, then felts them into designs of texture and color. In her home, which is located along the Roseau River, on her dining room table, sits a basket of these beautiful little creations.
Val Hiebert, while working on completing her doctorate, and teaching students sociology at Providence University, has been an enthusiast for this day. For us, she will weave together a presentation that shows her passion and understanding of the social constructs that influence how we view beauty.
Bonnie Loewen keeps listening for and finding ways to weave in the habits of regular life with our spiritual journey, and the habits of our spiritual journey with regular life. She does this alongside Prairie Wind Mennonite Church, a house church that gathers in the southeast area and also together with those who don’t fit inside of institutional religion through palliative care, ceremonies of passage, and retreats. This retreat will be located at her house and farmyard.
Oh yeah... and that absent minded artist who sews bags out of her impressive excess. Her too.
(why can't I get rid of this frigging indentation??? I"m feeling this unwelcome flashback to that room full of computers at the University of Winnipeg....)
I need your help to remind me how to do this? Put on your journalistic, retreat-er-ific hats and remind me what to say? How to present? What you'd like to see me demonstrate in the real world?
And maybe- why I said "yes"?
(because its going to be AWESOME! and I know that. And I'm so honored to be included, invited, trusted, welcomed. I know I'll come away richer, more inspired, more in touch with what I love about my life, my faith, and the ways in which I get to make sense of them both. I know that these women will flood my soul with light, with hope, with a desire to pursue the extraordinary in the every day, to see the miraculous in the mundane.)
A couple of days ago I bought Anne Lamott's latest book: "Help, Thanks, Wow- the Three Essential Prayers". And I've begun to practise them just a little. I'm pretty much stuck at the "Help" portion, but with a little help from my friends, I'm looking forward to a little "Thanks".
Since I've just agreed to do something that I'm not at all sure I know how to do.
And maybe, just maybe after that, I'll have the honour of a teensiest little bit of "Wow".
|Joyce -- |
After my father was killed and I lost my home, the rest of my family and I fled South Sudan in search of a safe place. We spent endless days with empty stomachs and uncertainty, not knowing when our next meal would be.
My mother took us to the Kakuma camp in Kenya, where we finally found refuge. I spent the next 12 years of my life in that camp, where WFP school meals helped nourish my body and mind and helped me get the education that took me to where I am today: a college graduate with a job as a mechatronic engineer.
I still remember the first time I entered the crowded room of my school in the Kakuma refugee camp. I was a frightened 9 year-old boy, but the smell of porridge filled my nose and calmed my nerves. I soon came to cherish that hot and filling meal.
Food and school became the only certainties for me and the other children. I looked forward to them every day. It would have been difficult to learn if I was hungry. Instead, school meals made sure my classmates and I kept coming back day after day.
With the support of WFP’s school meals, my studies brought me all the way to Australia where I enrolled in university. I just graduated a couple of weeks ago and found a well-paying job programming robots. Staying in school gave me not only the ability to do what I love but also an opportunity to help my country.
I want to return to South Sudan and help rebuild it. I hope to one day raise my family there. Everything I learned in school while living at the Kakuma refugee camp contributed to my success, and now I want to bring this success back home.
Thank you for being part of the WFP community -- and, a part of the solution to hunger. Your continued support is giving more students like me the chance to escape poverty and hunger. It’s leading us to a better future, instead of a dead-end.
Chep Makur Chuot
The World Food Programme (WFP) fights hunger worldwide, saving lives during emergencies while building a better future for the next generation. WFP is funded solely by voluntary donations.
World Food Programme
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