This Calgary great-grandmother is empowering women by teaching them to sew
Published Saturday, December 24, 2016 10:00PM EST
With the help of needles and thread, a Calgary great-grandmother is working to empower woman across the globe.
Sewing Seeds International is the brainchild of entrepreneur Sylvia Rempel. The non-profit teaches women how to sew so they can better support themselves and their families.
"Many of them are single moms and they have no income,” Rempel told CTV Calgary. “They don’t even have enough food to have three meals a day.”
Rempel started Sewing Seeds in 2002 in Sierra Leone. The non-profit now also runs sewing schools in Peru, Mexico and Ukraine.
In Sierra Leone, one of Rempel’s first graduates, N’Mamah Kamara, now owns two tailor shops and teaches others to sew.
“She said the biggest thing for her was that she felt so proud she could walk the streets and say, ‘I’ve accomplished something,’” Rempel said of her former pupil.
It was Rempel’s daughter Tammy who first went to the West African country. When she returned, she told her mother all about the ravages of the country’s civil war.
“And the thing with mom is she takes it on, right?” Tammy Bartel told CTV Calgary. “So it’s like, ‘We’re doing it.’ You knew that we were doing it.”
Rempel has always embraced hard work. At the age of 40, after raising four children, she founded the sportswear company Sunice, designing and manufacturing clothes for Canada’s first ever Everest expedition as well as the uniforms for Canadian athletes at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. She sold the label in 2007.
Sewing Seeds is very much a family affair. Rempel’s daughters are all involved and her granddaughter Candice is in charge of the organization’s recently-opened Calgary sewing centre, which helps train volunteers.
Rempel lives by a simple rule that she endeavours to share with others.
“Keep working at it and you don’t give up,” she said.
600 women have already graduated from Rempel’s sewing classes, and there are plans to open more schools in Haiti and Ghana. You can find out more about the non-profit at www.sewingseedsinternational.com.
With a report from CTV News Alberta bureau chief Janet Dirks