Retirement Can Change Your Life – Or Someone Else’s Life

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 schedgolf-1ule 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.

ssi-3The 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.ssi-2

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?

ssi-5Absolutely. 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?

16 thoughts on “Retirement Can Change Your Life – Or Someone Else’s Life

  1. Jim, what an inspiring story. Someday I would love to be as wonderful as Sylvia. Such a great testament for living. Thank you for sharing this story.

  2. Such a great story of someone getting and giving the most out of their retirement years. I’ve been a volunteer all of my adult life and know from personal experience it is more rewarding to give of yourself than anything in the world.

    • Thanks, Gay. You are right on target – better to give than to receive – and that counts doubly for volunteering. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Such a wonderful story. Whatever we choose to do in retirement, it should be something that fills us with joy and warms our hearts and, like this woman, we hope it also influences others in a positive fashion. Erik Erikson, a famous developmental psychologist, called the last stage of life the generative stage meaning it was when we gave to others. This story proves he was right.

    • Thanks, Lesley. Would that more of us would follow Erik’s view of retirement. These people with SSI are simply amazing. I’ve had a few dealings with some of them. They bring so much hope – and not just hope but possibilities – to many people.

  4. I’m so impressed by this woman’s story. God bless her. In retirement, I volunteer at the American Cancer Society Discovery shop and on the board of the Friends of the Elk Grove library. But most of the time, I’m working on my cozy mystery novels, as that is dear to my heart. Not nearly as ambitious as Sylvia, and won’t earn so many rewards in Heaven as she, but it keeps me off the streets and out of trouble. In this endeavor, I also hope my stories bring a bit of cheer and laughter to others. Thanks for sharing this wonderful and inspiring story with us.

    • It sounds like you are doing much more than many. Volunteering for the American Cancer Society is great, as is working with the library board. But, let’s not overlook bringing cheer and laughter to others. This can be huge. Thanks for your comment, Elaine.

    • Thanks, Patricia. If you look around, there are so many people who are doing great things to help others. I feel humbled by Silvia and her daughters.

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