Rakmila Shaiza was named Central Seminary Alumni/ae Association’s Alumna of the Year on May 10 at the annual program and reception. The Association invited her to say more about her ministry, Stitching Change. The following is what she said:
I’m humbled and deeply grateful that you all have named me as Alumna of the Year and recognized my work with the women of our community. I share this honor with our faithful Stitching Change volunteers, our supporters, our three partner churches (Prairie Baptist; First Baptist, KCK; and Grandview Park Presbyterian, KCK), our 7 retail stores and small businesses, and most especially the women in our group. And with my husband John for his unconditional support and trust in me! I had the vision for Stitching Change, but without the support of the community, my vision would not have come this far!
I founded Stitching Change because I wanted to do ministry differently than I was taught to do ministry with the poor! I used to think that charity work will liberate people from poverty and help them to participate in society confidently, but, through my work with poorer communities for 16 years, I became convinced that what they really need is someone to recognize their abilities and provide them with resources like a learning center and job-training classroom where they can develop new skills and equip themselves to participate in the workforce that our society demands. Many of the people I have worked with are smart, creative, and innovative people. If given a chance, they will not only survive but thrive, but if we keep on trying to help people by fixing their problems and handing things out to them, we may be part of the problem, keeping them in poverty.
With Stitching Change, our women don’t generally want handed-down things. What they hunger for is to learn skills and work to contribute to their families and society. After the first year of our sewing class, nine of our women saved enough money from the crafts we sold to buy their own new sewing machines and are now practicing and working from home! For women, providing skills and jobs are not the only things they need. In order for them to strive, they need strong social support and a flexible schedule so that they can spend time with their children and have time to rest and recuperate. Stitching Change is trying to provide all these as much as possible to 15 Burmese, Bhutanese, and Nepali women in Kansas City, Kansas.
In times such as this, where there are lot of fears and suspicion of people like me, Stitching Change, in its own small way, expresses the faith that, if we try to see each other as human beings rather than the other, we can co-exist, and maybe even learn from each other what it means to be human.
Shaiza concluded her remarks by encouraging the students who would graduate the next day to be brave enough to say “It’s not okay” to the injustices of the world, including the lack of access to the poor – the maority of whom are women and girls – for basic healthcare, clean air and water, proper housing, and healthy food; the income disparity between the rich and the poor, locally and globally; nor to continue to live in suspicion and hatred. She concluded, “Like me, you have been well taught and trained by intelligent and compassion professors and the larger Central community to seek justice, peace, and righteousness and to love deeply. So now it is your turn to live them out for others!“
At Central we value our Alumni/ae. You are our best ambassadors. We want to stay connected with you – to know what you are doing and to be a resource for your ministry.
Along with an annual program/reception, there are other opportunities for connecting with old friends and to make new ones:
Seminary Alumni/ae Liaison – Robin Sandbothe
Contact Seth Vopat, email@example.com, or Robin Sandbothe, if you are interested in more information.