Women of Vision 2012 Recipient: Founder of Sewing Seeds International, Sylvia Rempel!


Seamstress Sewing Seeds of Success Around the World

To describe Sylvia Rempel’s life and accomplishments, you need to compile a long, long list. She is a mother, grandmother, greatgrandmother, seamstress, teacher, successful entrepreneur, philanthropist and charity leader. But soon, Rempel hopes to add one more thing to that list. “You know what I’m going to do?” Rempel asks with a proud smile and tilt of her head, “I’m going to buy a harp and take harp lessons.”
Sylvia Rempel, left, started Sun Ice clothing and went on to do the Olympic clothing for the Winter Games in Calgary. After getting out of that business, she developed the non-profit organization (Sewing Seeds) that helps communities in developing regions by teaching them how to sew and donating sewing equipment.
Rempel loves music and says she used to sing a little. So, taking on a brand new challenge of learning to play a harp will fit right in on her lifetime list. Rempel is what you might call a doer. She says keeping busy keeps her engaged in life. “If I don’t have a purpose then I sort of, maybe, do nothing and that’s not what I enjoy doing.”
In 2002, Rempel says she found her purpose when she started the non-profit organization Sewing Seeds International. She and some of her family members travel to countries such as Peru, Ukraine and Sierra Leone, teaching women how to sew so they can make their families’ clothing, and make a living, as well, in often difficult conditions in developing and war-ravaged regions.
It was a faith-based organization that first asked Rempel to take part in a mission and that’s when she learned the people of Sierra Leone desperately needed a hand up. She knew teaching them the life skill of sewing could impact their lives in many ways. “They are so hardworking, those women. When you give them a chance, they go for it.”
Several of the women Rempel has trained are running their own businesses. She talks about one woman she calls Mama. “She’s got her own tailor shop, she’s got five sewing machines and she just opened another shop . . . and there’s at least eight other ones that are doing uniforms and they’re sewing for other people.”
Rempel not only brings along her expertise as a seamstress on these trips, but also the supplies. Her southwest Calgary home is full of stacks of brightly coloured material, buttons, zippers and bows. And after the hands-on training programs are done, Rempel says graduation day is an emotional moment with an immeasurable reward.
“They sing songs and they give you little gifts. It’s just so inspiring . . . and that’s why I need to go back.”
Sewing started out as a necessity for Rempel when she was a young girl growing up Germany. She learned from her mother, who made all the family’s clothes, and also made a living at it while her husband was away in the war. When Rempel moved to Canada and became a young mother with four children, and a husband on a school teacher’s salary, she also made her family’s clothes and honed her skills.
That led to a teaching job at SAIT, where Rempel began to design skiwear patterns. From that, Sun Ice was born, a ski and sport clothing company that became a Calgary business success story, including outfitting volunteers at the 1988 Olympic Winter Games.

After selling Sun Ice, retirement didn’t mean relaxation for Rempel. That’s when her desire to give back kicked into high gear and she started Sewing Seeds. This is where her heart will remain. “I’m not one that’ll quit, I can’t do that. If I promise something I have to do it.”

~Colleen De Neve, Calgary Herald

Click below to view Gobal TV’s Interview with Sylvia Rempel.

Categories Uncategorized | Tags: | Posted on May 29, 2012

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