#IAmCentral – Rakmila Shaiza

Reflection from Central Alum Rakmila Shaiza, Founder of Stitching Change


#IAmCentral because I have a passion for social justice and creation care.

I joined Central with lots of passion to work for change, especially for the under-privileged community, but without much confidence. Having grown up in a culture where women were not expected to participate much, I remember not talking much in class discussions during my first and second years. But in an Old Testament class on the Psalms, I did a class presentation on the topic of liberation for women and talked about women who are trapped in human trafficking. I was very nervous because I was not sure the topic was what my professor was hoping for, but I remember all my classmates listened to me attentively. I was amazed and I knew that day that my calling to work for the community was given a voice, and I have never looked back. Central has continuously taught me that in order to lead well, first you listen and learn, then you lead.

I formed Stitching Change to bring women from many backgrounds together to learn from one another and to work to build a caring community. For the last six years we have done our work with an intergenerational, interracial, and interreligious group of volunteers and students. Our community supporters are also very diverse. As a result, we have formed deeper relationships and are accepting and respectful of each other’s differences. Beyond our classroom, we share our garden produce, call one another when one of us gets sick, and have checked on each other, particularly during this pandemic. For me, it is very satisfying to know that we have each other to count on.

Due to the climate crisis and the pandemic, basic resources such as clean air, water, food, jobs, housing, and healthcare are becoming scarcer in poorer communities. In a time such as this, I think that those of us who are not suffering personally need to do everything we can to help empower communities who are struggling. My vision for SC is to work with women and learn how to overcome or manage the things that are confronting us. As we train our women in sewing, designing, and small business management, our goal is also to help our community reclaim, repurpose and reuse textiles and plastics and make them into useful and beautiful products as much as possible, so we can keep them out of the landfill and create income for women makers. We have made nearly 6,000 reusable market bags and face masks for our community and beyond.

I am a firm believer in community working together. Having grown up in the Tangkhul Naga culture, where work and life are sustained through participation and collaboration with others, I listen to what the community needs and seek to discover how we can work together. So Stitching Change is working with groups who care about the climate crisis, poverty, unemployment, healthy food, social justice, art, and community-building. We are partnering with these various group in our city and beyond:

Grandview Park Presbyterian Church, KCK
First Baptist Church, KCK
Prairie Baptist Church, Prairie Village, KS
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
Overland Park Farmers Market
The Local Pig in the River Market
Place: Mindful Interiors (createplace.co)
Studio of Humankind
Ten Thousand Villages Overland Park
Unique Finds Gifts Overland Park
Center for Sustainability at Johnson County Community College
Green Works in Kansas City
National Presbyterian Women (USA)
Metro Organization for Racial and Economic Equity (More2)
KC Farm School at Gibbs Road

Together, We Are Central

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