Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Hope and Opportunities with Rotary - Mums Sew With Love

Ten months have since passed since this Mums Sew With Love was initiated at the start of my presidency for Rotary Year 2014/15 with the support of my club members. The idea was to engage single and stay at home mothers and empower them with lifelong skills.

Our co - partner is Pusat Bantuan Sentul, an NGO in Sentul which has several areas of outreach to different sectors of the community. Ms Vicki Singam , the administrator of the Centre was thrilled when the idea was suggested. Several mothers already had basic sewing skills which needed honing; others who had  no sewing skills were taught by our dedicated and patient volunteer teachers. With this as the starting point, we decided to embark on a sewing project to reach out to a bigger group of mothers.

 There were challenges. How does one light up a total stranger's life ? Economic and time pressures often deter these mothers from participating. A struggling single mum has many personal problems and it can be an additional burden for her to make it to classes to learn sewing. How will a skill like sewing bring food to the table? These doubts often stop them from stepping out of their comfort zone. This is where we step in to provide a friendly environment to upgrade skills and provide moral support.

Word was passed around and we started with  a good group of mothers who were curious and showed their desire to learn. Patience and determination and dedicated efforts have paid off. Those at Mums Sew With Love now call Pusat Bantuan Sentul (PBS) their home.

We had a wonderful evening for our mothers when they visited our club on 8 October, 2014 for a special get - together. The volunteers were introduced to our new 'charges'. I presented the programe for all to hear with many pictures of our proposed activities and crafts. We are thankful to our fellow Rotarians from R C  Kelana Jaya for their sisterly generosity. They had heard about the sewing project and came bearing gifts of two electric sewing machines.To this day, the mothers talk about that special visit and the warm welcome they received.

Another visit to be treasured was that of Rotary International  Connection Specialist, Rotarian Mohamed Shedou who  graciously agreed to touch base on a special morning visit to meet and interact with the mothers at PBS. This visit was held  in conjunction with Rotary International President, Gary Huang's visit to Kuala Lumpur. Our club members and their spouses and our team of mothers were all excited. The room was filled to capacity. So much chatter  was heard above the happy whirring of the sewing machines. The mothers showed their skills and worked at their allocated crafts, enjoying the limelight.  Shedou's friendly smiles eased their jitters and his genuine interest in the different items boosted the mothers' confidence. As he moved around, he viewed the different products : casserole holders, place mats, table runners, toiletries bags. All of these are made for sale. Our great helper, Friend of Rotary, Jean presented  him with  one of our most popular items - a casserole holder..

Shedou was impressed by the good stitching. Oh yes,' I interjected,' Our mantra is  Always  neat and good work!'.

In the short period this project has taken off, it is clear that:

1 Mums Sew With Love  fills a void for this sector of the urban women of Sentul area who are poor and  marginalized in the community and who often struggle to upgrade themselves their social and economic status.

2. In the urban jungle where the pace of life is harried and hurried, these women have found a place where they can interact socially and learn a skill at the same time. They try their best to juggle the weekly sewing schedule with their part time domestic work which supplies their main income.

3. There has been an increase in the level of self -esteem of the mothers. The volunteers have been rewarded by the mothers'  punctuality, good work etiquette  and their cheerfulness.

4. Patience and determination to carry out this project has paid dividends. Though  each person  comes to us with different  skill levels, the consistent quality of their finished work makes us proud.

4. PBS can be more than a sewing centre. We intend to create conditions for hope and opportunities to the mothers. We now have short  talks on relevant topics e.g. health  with the help of Rotarians during our coffee break. These '15 minute conversation starters' serve as great platforms to empower the mothers with  knowledge; they add variety to each session and provide an extra interactivity among the volunteers.

The close interaction during the two to two and a half hour sessions allows us to lead as community leaders with values such as self -belief, responsibility, and humility to benefit our beneficiaries. Mind you, these talks also serve as reminders for us!

I am happy to say that our products have been given a HUGE tick of approval by our supporters who have been generous with their comments and cash. I hope more organisations will come forward to support this initiative. Do help us light up lives.

It is our fervent hope that Mums Sew With Love is sustainable in the future.

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'A candle loses nothing of its light by lighting up another candle' - James Keller


Each mother working on different items - table runners, place mats.

Books in the background - in the afternoons, the space that the mothers occupy is taken up as a place of learning. Students of different ages come for extra classes which are offered by PBS.
Our new home, Pusat Bantuan Sentul  - spacious and well- located .The tables used for tuition are handy as the mothers enjoy the space to plonk our machines and other stuff!
A friendly, helping hand during a lesson. Jean, Friend of the Rotary Club of Pantai Valley  is a dedicated teacher and her sewing skills  are a great asset. Thanks a million! 
Proper sewing tools  - good investment  to give a high finish to our products.
Individualized teaching - watching closely as Beverley and Jean, our volunteer teachers show the proper way.

A senior member showing the ropes to a new participant in the making of a casserole holder.
Committee members from our partner, Pusat Bantuan Sentul (PBS)  in this project  graced our 'Getting to know the Mums' evening at our regular club meeting and dinner on 8 October,2014.  It was a first time Rotary experience for all of them. 
So happy to be here!
The meeting room on 8 October was filled to capacity  during our Mums' special visit. 
Have a feel of the place mat - the wadding inside gives a soft touch to the lovely item to grace your dining table with a napkin to match.

Place  your warm casserole inside. Pull up the sides, knot the cord . You 're ready to carry your food to a housewarming or potluck party ! Forget about plastic bags!  It is a popular item as people like the unique look of the batik  and  practicality.

Our range of items by the hardworking mums. Please call us for customized items.   

Assistant Governor ( Group 8), Suki chips in to complete the casserole holder.

President of Pusat Bantuan Sentul, Dato Dr. Tan Kee Kwong addressing the gathering .
A beaming Tina as Rotarian, Mohamed Shedou complimented her on the good workmanship of the Xmas table mats and napkins.
Some of the Rotarians  and spouses in a group photo with our visitor from Rotary International .

Kitchen/ bathroom hand towels in attractive colours are quite irresistible as gifts  as the Chinese New Year is round the corner.
A senior Mums Sew With Love member showing a new member  how to handle an electric sewing machine
Kanthi matches  the colours of the batik strips for a coordinated look to enhance our latest product  of tote bags. 
Our Mother's Day Hi Tea Fund Raiser invitation - huge thanks to Assistant Governor Suki for the great art work.
Sew Love in the buttons!
On 9 May, at our Mother's Day Hi Tea Fund Raiser, I will be pinning the badge for all the mothers of MSWL  - to wear with pride when they come for all sewing sessions. 

Practising for the video screening  of mums at work, and play  -  to the beat of Jai Ho ( Slum Dog Millionaire)
All excited for the Mother's Day Hi Tea Fund Raiser - first dance steps for some! Nevertheless the nervous energy gets us more excited !

Here's a scan of an article in The Star Metro to publicise our fund raiser. You can download the hi-resolution scan from the following link:
Thank you.
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Friday, February 13, 2015

Holiday in Tasmania

Our first  stopover from Melbourne to Tasmania was the city of Launceston.
We had breathtaking views of Launceston's famous Cataract Gorge and First Basin from the Chairlift. The Central span of 308 metres is believed to be the greatest single span of any chairlift in the world. I was more anxious about my hat flying off and our cameras, as we sat being so exposed.! 

Left Launceston for Mountain Valley Retreats. . A real fire to sit by in the evening. after a delicious home cooked dinner by host, Pat.  No wifi  so caught up with my audio book and it was Beethoven waiting patiently!
 So for the 3 days we were 'lost' in the valley of Loongana under the Black Bluff Mountain. Time was on our side, so we ventured to the caves, experienced Australian wildlife  and the beauty of the Kaydale Gardens - all such great memories to reflect upon.  
Our rustic cabin with simple kitchen amenities. Breakfast was all ready in the fridge for the  three days we spent there. We were advised to stock up on drinks as we made our way to  our destination as there were no shops within close drive to Mountain Valley Retreats. We experienced Tasmanian  wilderness; roaming round the cabins were Pademelons and they fought shy of us when we came closer  

Out in the wilderness
Our host fed road kills in the evenings, and in the darkness of our room, we watched the  Tasmanian Devils come stealthily to eat their dinner. In the evening, we could only watch from a distance the platypuses diving in and out of the water in a river nearby as they foraged for food in the still pools .

From the Cruickshank Lookout, 275 m above the Leven River. Off the beaten track, we got to it via a well equipped picnic area and followed a short relatively easy rainforest walk.

High enough on the viewing platform to marvel at the  Leven Canyon below.

Beauties at Kaydale Lodge and Gardens - just an example of the visual delights of this acclaimed 2 hectacre garden. A must for garden lovers.

Award winning gardens at Kaydale Lodge

With the owner's daughter
Gunns  Plains Cave is close to Leven Canyon - a fascinating world of caves, sinkholes and underground streams. Is this Western Australia hanging from the roof? Actually I saw the head of a python! Amazing limestone formations, glowworms, underground stream, including one of the  Southern Hemisphere's largest shawl formations. Impressive.  The tour guide told us concerts are held in the Caves too! He held our attention with so much info told in an interesting manner. It was well worth the visit.  
. There were low points requiring visitors to 'bend low'. The pathways were sufficiently lit  and not too narrow.

Hanging shawls 

At Wings Wildlife Park - a sleepy wombat in the arms of a caretaker. So many animals - alpacas, eagles, Tasmanian Devils, kangaroos, wallabies, birdlife, emus, ostrich, koalas, echidnas, reptiles

Getting acquainted with the koala at Wings Wildlife Park.

The Tasmanian Devils snarled at one another .  Yes, the teeth doth show up sharp and mean!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

All abuzz for the wedding

A team to set up the tent and the dais for the wedding ceremony. 
Work done! 
The event organisers are in.
More hands on deck - the menfolk  are assembling the door gifts to contain the specially made fruit cake by the groom's mum.

Lovely Thank You  door gifts 
Rice grains and rose petals to  fill up the sachets for the 'moment' during the thali tying.

All packed  in delicate chiffon packets  - to be distributed to guests . Ready to shower the bride and groom. 

The groom's uncle up on the ladder to decorate the main entrance to the house. - a traditional welcome in a South Indian wedding.

Adding more colour and beauty  at another doorway to the main wedding  area.

A lady specialist in henna painting from Byron Bay  painting motifs a day before the wedding.

The bride's choice

Getting the kumkuma - mixture of tumeric and saffron  ready - a Hindu ritual 'aarti'  to greet and bless the bride when she enters the groom's house. 

More colour and grandeur for the wedding house  lounge  -  the groom's mum was up early at the Ballina farmers' market for flowers etc.

Sarees, salwars, sherwanis,dhoti, kurta etc  - all having a quick steaming to iron out the creases.

Giving special attention to the flower girl's gorgeous salwar.

The local hairdresser from Lennox Head  certainly had a busy time !

Niece of the groom getting ready for her flower girl  role.
Pretty ladies in a row - taking turns  to be dressed in their sarees in the hands of the expert.
A small white rose for my hair, with a little help from the hairstylist.

 Time to light up  the  kuthivalika ( brass oil lamp) adorned with fresh jasmine.

Lighting up for the auspicious day
The wedding reception team of  pretty nieces  and cousins  - rose water, kumkuma , programe to explain a simplified Indian wedding ceremony , sachets of tumeric rice