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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