If you'd asked me this time last year what I thought I'd be doing in April 2018 it would not have been "preparing for the trip of a lifetime volunteering in Zimbabwe for the month of June".
I'll start at the beginning. I first became aware of Natalie Freeman, Business coach and founder of social enterprise 13Rhythms (RE:13), through a mutual friend a few months ago. I knew that Natalie ran a programme in Zimbabwe and I knew that it had something to do with business and sewing. But that was about it. I will admit that my interest was piqued. But I didn't let on at the time (at least I don't *think* I let on at the time. Admittedly my poker face needs work)
When the opportunity arose for Natalie and I to chat I found myself wanting to know more about her work with 13Rhythms and her work in rural Zimbabwe. She works in partnership with F.A.C.T Zimbabwe to deliver business skills sessions, provide resources and support individuals, particularly women, to start and run sustainable micro and small enterprises. Together they also provide support to market and sell their products. Natalie was looking for a fashion designer to volunteer. Whilst she spoke I was nodding and smiling, mentally working out how I could afford to take time off from my fledgling business let alone drum up the money to go with her. But it seemed like a perfect fit! I love teaching and I love sewing and I love fashion and I love empowering women(over-used phrase I know but give me another?). WIN. Still I kept my mouth pretty much closed.
But the thought wouldn't go away. So, about a week later I tentatively mentioned it to my girls. Well! Their reaction was priceless. From the time I opened my mouth it was set. I was going to Zimbabwe. There was just the small matter of a couple of grand or so to raise.
In the meantime, Natalie was planning for a trip to Zimbabwe with her first cohort. I finally expressed my keenness out loud and, once she embarked for Africa, followed her updates on social media with renewed interest. The more I saw, the more I knew this was what I was meant to do. It sounds really corny and cring-y I know - finding your purpose, but it's true. I was never not going.
Last Wednesday I woke up determined to work through the To-do list that Natalie had given me, after a phone discussion that left me part paralysed with 'WTF am I doing?' fear. The good kind though. The kind that makes you tingle and feel slightly sick. The stepping out of your comfort zone kind of fear. I had drafted a Go fund me page and set a basic target. Now I needed some content. At the top of the list for that memorable day was 'Make a 1 minute video'. Natalie's advice was clear. Write a check list, hit key points but be natural. BE NATURAL Karen! Yeah I could totally do this! I sat down at my kitchen table(best light and cute painting in the background), stomach fluttering. I propped my iPad up on a dressmakers mannequin (as you do), placed my checklist within eye distance and began. Two HOURS later I had 16 (SIXTEEN) videos and not one of them was suitable. I forgot my own name. I fluffed the fundraising total. I stalled often. I swore on camera.
And then I started to cry. Why couldn't I do this? What was going on? I am a grown-ass woman! How did all those Vloggity-vlogger type people or the Insta-story gurus (*side-eyes Nat Lue and Candice Brathwaite) make it look so blimmin' easy? I was actually shaking with upset and frustration. My carefully applied makeup was a myth and I'd developed a nose a certain reindeer would be envious of.
I contacted Natalie who was professionally calm and understanding (masking mild alarm?). After a time we both decided it would probably be best if I stepped away and tried again later. It was a gloriously sunny day so a stroll to the studio to sew would clear my head. Then I thought, 'Let me try this ONE more time', and before I could talk myself out of anything I grabbed my phone, pressed record and vomited words at the screen. That was it. My red nose and wobbly voice were a go! The next day I published my Go fund me page and we were away!
We raised £225 in 2 hours. £1200 in 22 hours and hit phase one of my target the following afternoon, less that 48 hours since it launched. I've been told by people who know these things that's Pretty Darn Good. I was blown away!
We are now entering Phase two. This extended goal will allow me to deliver my best offer helping women in Zimbabwe without anxiety around my costs whilst I'm away. Any money raised above this will buy desperately needed sewing machines (any machine manufacturers or retailers reading this? Holla at your girl) and business resources to take to (or purchase in) Zimbabwe.
Why is this opportunity for me? I have a great deal to say on this but I will try to be succinct.
I have spent decades scared of being me and wary of expressing my opinion. I was trying to be a good little girl, perfect partner, excellent teacher, the best Pastoral leader. I escaped from a long relationship constantly been told that I would never survive alone. And I have two grown daughters who are my biggest inspiration. Like it or not, they absorb my every move. I am determined to live my best life for me so that they can do the same for themselves.
*end of gushy bit*
I have loved sewing, creating and designing since my own mother taught me, over 40 years ago and I've been teaching for over half my life. It's time to step up and out and take my skills where they are needed the most. After all, outside our comfort zone is where all the magic happens, right?
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Thank you for reading this.