It’s International Handwashing Day … a perfect time to give you a proper update on our soap initiative.
If you read our first post about this from July, we shared about the basic opportunity. Yes, we truly believe it’s a miracle.
So here is the latest …
12-Month Budget & Startup Funding: We’re thrilled to report that from just that one blog post we raised $5,600. That gave us a startup budget plus a 12-month operating budget for this program. In the near future we will announce a need for additional funding, but as of right now, that initial giving was more than we could have hoped to get – and so the program is off to a great start!
Official Charter: The Program has been officially approved by our ministry partner (Needs Care School) in Zambia as a ministry initiative. The goal is to provide love and care to the needy of their community while also offering empowerment and sustainability to their program. This fits perfectly with our “Purposeful Products” strategy!
Use Of Soap: As part of the official approval the Board of Directors decided how the soap would be used.
25% of all soap will be given to the poorest families in the community through their Caregiver ministry.
The remaining 75% will be made available for purchase.
The Sew Powerful Purse Program will act as a “buyer” in that regard. So we fund the program with a budget each month, and in exchange, we receive a certain amount of the soap for our purse program. Think of it like a standing monthly order, from a trusted customer, which the team can use as a stable source of funding to scale up their program.
The goal will be to scale production so a local sales staff can begin selling it to add income – making the program locally sustainable.
Soap Team: We have a leader and funding for an initial team of 4 people. Our vision is to scale this program to a large number – adding staff and facilities in a logical and methodical fashion. Our initial goal will be 20 employees, after our facilities issue is resolved.
Current Facility: The team is currently using the existing clinic building location since it is not in use every day. The challenge is – it’s very small space. More room is being actively looked for.
Initial Test Batches: The team has been doing initial test batches learning about how to melt, shape, and dry the soap. From these tests they’ll be able to determine many things including production capacity, speed of drying, and best practices for cutting and packaging the soap.
Pictures From The First Batch: We’ve included the pictures from the very first batch of soap attempted before any proper tools were purchased. This gives you a feel for how challenging the environment is – but it’s so fun to see the project come to life.
A Huge Thank You: We want to extend a huge thank you to everyone that donated to this initial effort. This project has captured the imagination and support of so many people – it’s exciting to see it spring to life. It couldn’t happen without your support.
Honored to partner together,
Jason, Cinnamon, Esther & the Entire Sew Powerful (and So Powerful Soap) team!
Tell Us What You Think: Be sure to leave a word of encouragement in the comments below so the Zambia Soap Team knows they are loved and supported! We’ll do our best to continue giving you updates!
Earlier this month we conducted a set of home visits in Lusaka checking up on purse recipients. We learned a lot. In several respects, the visits were very depressing. But God is up to something very interesting – and we wanted to share the exciting news! Is it a miracle? It certainly seems like one!
First, the home visits were difficult because hearing the stories of hardship and challenge that the girls in Ngombe Compound face was a reality check. We know that 2/3rds of the children we work with are full orphans (having lost both parents), and over half are HIV Positive, but those are just statistics. When you go and visit the children in their home, see the situation, and realize how desperate the circumstances are, it’s honestly overwhelming.
But we also heard that the soap we provide in the Sew Powerful Purse Program is used up very quickly. We knew it probably was – but hearing the details made us realize we have a problem. The soap we provide basically lasts girls one period, so after the first month of use, it’s gone. Each bar costs us .59 cents.
As I sat in home-after-home hearing the same soap problem – the weight of the challenge sank in. After one of the particularly challenging visits I said to the team, “we’ve got to figure out this soap problem.”
But to meet the need we’d need to find a way to deliver a small bar of soap every month to the purse beneficiaries. This year alone, that would mean 3,700 bars of soap per month. Next year, that would be 6,000 bars per month.
6,000 bars of soap a month is 72,000 for the full year. If we reach our 2020 goal and assist 20,000 beneficiaries, that would require 240,000 bars of soap a year. That’s a huge amount of soap!
Here is where the story gets interesting…
On our last day in Lusaka we came down to the hotel lobby for breakfast and we saw a former colleague of mine. We used to work together a long time ago. We greeted her and asked what she was doing in Lusaka and she said,
“I’m here to talk to Esther(our Sew Powerful Program director) about a soap project.”
“Yes”, she said. As it turns out she had come with a proposal she wanted to discuss for an ongoing soap project. Long story short, she has access to a source of soap scraps that can be re-purposed. Melted and re-used.
To do it right, it will take equipment, space, and staffing. But the bars could be used for the purse program, the school, the clinic, or even sold in the community as an income generating activity.
I was speechless. My mind quickly flashed back to the math I had already done. So I asked,
“how much soap are we talking about?”
She said, “more than you could possibly ever use.”
A few minutes later Esther arrived to greet us for the day and take us to the Needs Care school. On the way to the school, we discussed the new project idea. At the school we sat down with our guest and worked through the details. A plan began to emerge, led by Esther of course. In short:
We’ll be launching a new soap making team. This will be our 3rd “Purposeful Product” (school uniforms, reusable hygiene pads, and now soap). Of course, we should also add food from the farm to our list of Purposeful Products, so we are now up to four!
Technically the team won’t be making the soap, it’s just melting and cutting it into small bars. But their mission will be to make a massive amount of soap each month.
Sew Powerful will fund the operation – in exchange for soap.
Esther has 80 volunteer Caregivers that have worked together for many years in support of the HIV/AIDS crisis. She is going to ask them to be helpers in the program and assist in making the soap.
We will use our current soap budget (the .59 cents per bar that we currently have budgeted) to hire several highly motivated school moms (or dads) and ask them to help set up and run the program. This will create new jobs – and expand the Sew Powerful / Needs Care school team. As the program expands more team members will be added. These jobs can be done by people who are not literate, which allows us to include some of the most desperate people in the community.
We’ll work to produce enough soap to fully supply the Sew Powerful Purse beneficiaries, and begin selling the extra soap in the local community under the name So Powerful Soap. Until we can come up with a better name.
We will work to invest in this new soap team and expand it over time – creating an ongoing income source that can assist in funding the school programs.
We Need Your Help: The program is not up and running yet! During our brainstorming conversations, we came up with a list of start-up expenses to get the program going. We need roughly $1,500 to launch the new soap team. We’d love your support: www.sewpowerful.org/donate
When you contribute – you’ll be helping us launch an exciting new chapter in the Sew Powerful ministry story. Only God could orchestrate this type of amazing provision. He loves the children of Ngombe more than we could ever imagine – and He’s got good things planned for these precious children.
Honored to serve together,
Jason, Cinnamon, Esther & the entire Sew Powerful team!
Ps. upon hearing this someone wrote, “Before they call, I will answer, and while they are yet speaking I will hear.” a verse found in Isaiah 65:24. What an amazing promise that God made long ago – that He is still fulfilling today!
P.P.S. please note, all extra funds raised will be used to support the Sew Powerful Purse program – and directly benefit the children of Zambia.
Recently we received beautiful thank-you notes from some of the girls that received purses – and we wanted to share them with all of you. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do – they are heartfelt expressions – made possible because you (our amazing purse making partners) took the time to invest in a young girls life. They won’t ever meet you – and you won’t ever meet them – but their lives are changed and improved because of your hard work. May these notes fill you with joy and hope!
With just four weeks left before our October 1, 2016 priority deadline, we’d love to know if you’re working to complete some purses and send them to us. We’ve made a simple poll that let’s you response – and will help us estimate the upcoming packages. Our goal is 3,000 and we estimate that we currently have 1,300 so there is a very long way to go!
And if you’ve already sent in your purses – we want to extend a huge “Thank You”. This program is only possible because of your amazing generosity – and partnership. We are increcibly honored to partner with each of you in support of the women and girls of Lusaka!
Whatever happens – we are grateful, honored, and super excited to celebrate during our Unboxing Party on October 26th at 6pm Pacific. Please plan on joining us that night and save-the-date.
As I write this we have just two hours left in Lusaka before we head to the airport. I realize there are a lot of you that have been following our daily posts on Facebook and all the fun pictures there – and would love to be here with us – so I thought I’d give you a quick list of the requests I heard about this week – and a quick update on the status of the program. First the status report.
The program is working incredibly well, but it’s not without it’s technical issues. But overall, the seamstresses are busy making product, the teachers are training the girls, and the purses are making a huge impact. We heard story after story – the outcomes are very consistent – the Sew Powerful Purse program is making a transformational difference in the lives of girls and women in this community.
In terms of urgent requests – here is what I heard this week in order importance. Please note some of these issues our team in Zambia can resolve on their own with our help. Some we can resolve ourselves on the U.S. side, and several are simply funding related challenges, so as you might guess – your monthly financial partnership is incredibly helpful (set that up here). Here’s the list:
The girls mentioned they run out of soap. They are provided one bar in the purse when it is given to them. It costs us 38 cents. But to offer an ongoing supply – we’ll need to create a line-item in our program budget for soap so the girls can come to the school and get some when they need it. (Please note – we do not, and cannot accept random bars of soap in the purses you make for us. That’s not helpful. These items need to be purchased locally and used at the Needs Care School.)
We met with the seamstresses as a large group, then with our three amazing team leaders – and they requested three things. First, a bigger team budget to grow the team and ensure everyone is benefiting.
The seamstresses third request was for more space. They are challenged by the space they have – and ideally (some day) as we continue to grow they will have their own production facility.
We met with the World Vision Zambia team and they asked us to urgently help them fulfill their Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) program goals distributing 5,000 purses in the One-Chongwe Area Development Program with purses and the Sew Powerful training. All indications are that our 2017 purse goal should be 6,000 purses (to fill the need at the Needs Care School + the 5,000 World Vision is requesting). Can we do it? We have NO idea!! But we we believe in miracles – and we are constantly blown away by the enthusiasm we’re receiving for this program from around the world.
Finally, the donors on the trip requested more giving options and resources to help them tell the story, engage their pastor and missions pastor, their local fabric store, local sewing machine store, and their personal network of friends. Watch for those soon on our resources page.
Cinnamon and I are incredibly honored to serve as coordinators for this program – bringing together seamstresses from around the world to combat extreme poverty and unlock the educational potential of girls – and entrepreneurial potential of the moms of the community.