Retirement. That word means different things to different people. And it means different things to an individual at different times of his or her life.
Some see it as an opportunity to travel, to go places time has not permitted in the past. Others see it as a time to kick back and do nothing, watch more TV, read more books, get in a daily siesta, join a coffee klatch with other retirees, or have no schedule at all.
How many retirees use the additional free time to improve their golf game, or develop a better bridge game. Others use the new-found time to work with charitable organization.
But some choose to use their skills to train or otherwise help people in need.
Sylvia had begun sewing as a child, making her own doll clothes. She continued as an adult, making her husband’s suits, ties and shirts. After awhile, Sylvia Remple began teaching sewing and eventually opened a clothing manufacturing business. It grew quickly and before long she had three hundred employees. In 1982, her company, Sun Ice, outfitted the first team of Canadians to conquer Mount Everest. Two years later, her company was awarded the contract to outfit many Canadian teams for the Winter Olympics in Los Angles. Following that success, Sun Ice became the Official Clothing Supplier to the Winter Olympics hosted by Canada
In 2001, Sylvia Remple sold the business. Retirement. What to do now?
About the same time, she became aware of the poverty in Sierra Leone and in particular, the desperate circumstances for some women. She came up with an idea.
Sylvia and daughters Tammy and Angela formed Sewing Seeds International – SSI. Its mandate was to create self-sustaining sewing schools in impoverished areas, empowering women, bringing hope for a better future.
The first project was in Sierra Leone. SSI secured backing from some companies, purchased sewing machines and materials. In Sierra Lione, they found a place to hold classes, then advertised for women who wanted to learn a skill that would help them toward a better future.
The classes were intense. Sylvia realized that to keep attendance and attention at a high level, the school must provide care for the many young children of the students. So, day care was provided, including meals.
At the end of the three-week classes, the machines were left in the classrooms and the women were encouraged to continue working on their sewing skills.
A few months later, these same women were given another three-week school, introducing them to more advanced skills. Again, the machines were left for the students to practice and make clothes for their children and themselves.
A third course was offered. Now, the students were capable of using patterns and making items for sale. But most important for the Sewing Seeds mandate, the best students were trained so they could teach classes to other women.
The success of the school encouraged SSI to move into other countries. Classes have been given in Africa, Europe, South America, and Mexico.
Has it been successful?
Absolutely. Many of the women now make a decent living sewing for others. Several have formed companies to manufacture clothes. One graduate now has a company with eight other women working, all making a decent living. Graduates of another school formed a co-op which now has a contract to supply all the uniforms for a school system in a nearby larger town.
Because they are set up to be self-sustaining, these schools should bear fruit for years to come. The Canadian government has recognized SSI as a certified charitable organization. In many places around the world, SSI is recognized as a life-saver.
Is Sylvia bored in her retirement? Not even a little. Her compensation? Seeing impoverished women now able to be self-supporting, infused with hope for a brighter future. That’s better than a paycheck.
What is her retirement? To help others.
While going into extremely poor, perhaps desperate, areas may not seem like a fun thing to do in retirement, it must be extremely rewarding and give one a true sense of worth that a game of golf probably won’t.
Sylvia would tell you she has found the perfect retirement.
What do you see for yourself in retirement?