You all know by now that I got my start in fundraising in the Annual Giving Call Centre at Wilfrid Laurier University, and I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Phonathon programs. One of the reasons why I loved that experience so much was meeting all the people I did; my fellow supervisors, full-time professional fundraisers working in Annual Giving and adjacent departments, and – most of all – the student callers. Amie Mariana Sider is one of those former callers who I feel truly proud to know. Though I haven’t seen her in a while, I’ve been able to keep up-to-date on her life through social media, and it occurred to me one day that she’d be a fantastic guest blogger for What Gives. When I reached out to her she generously accepted my invitation, and I am so excited and proud to share Amie’s guest post below. Be inspired, excited, and spurred to action by Amie’s words. Enjoy!!!
Disclaimer: Brace yourselves readers, this is gonna be a long one. I’ve always been a rambler, but I think for this post it’s totally necessary for you to understand my context, background, and reason for doing what I do. Hopefully it can encourage and inspire you to join in, or simply rekindle your love of giving and doing good.
My name is Amie Mariana Sider and for some crazy reason I’m one of those 25 year old kids who somehow ended up landing their dream job at an absurdly young age with relatively no official experience. What turned out to be a huge qualifier was my unofficial expertise that came to me by growing up among a family of do-gooders, world changers, humanitarians, and international development gurus. At the age of 10 I had already traveled to more suffering and impoverished nations than fancy beach resorts. I forgot to mention that I was also born in an extremely remote and impoverished area of Guatemala and was blessed enough to escape the cycle of poverty by being adopted into an incredibly loving Canadian home.
Since the delicate age of 5, I have vocalized my determination and passion to truly change the world and end the cycle of poverty for those who deserve a chance to escape it just like I did. From then on I volunteered, participated in countless fundraisers, donated savings from my piggy bank, and searched for the best way that I could to bring about change for the world’s most marginalized and vulnerable people. 15 years later during my student career at Wilfrid Laurier University, NationWares was born.
As a Sociology and Global Studies major, I was determined to come up with some revolutionary idea to eradicate poverty. I’ve always understood charity and charity/development work, but was always drawn to the overwhelming success of the business industry. Let’s be honest here, I was a sociology major because math and numbers terrified me and I vowed to my grade 10 math teacher who promised not to fail me if I agreed to never set foot in another math course again in my entire life… which brings me to my third year global studies course.
The Global Studies department created a program called the Global Studies Experience; it was through this mandatory program that I was personally assigned a placement with a development agency. The agency was directed to give me a mandate to fulfill as a lowly summer intern who had yet to be jaded and discouraged by charity, the international development system, and of course organizational bureaucracy. Their mandate for my summer work involved none other than numbers, data collection, and of course fundraising… basically everything related to numbers and financial accountability that terrified me. To put the cherry on top of it all, they wanted me to target and grow financial resources from “young people”. I thought for sure that I was way over my head!
That summer I traveled to Ethiopia to visit some incredible programs in the area of life skills, vocational training, and income generation. I was so encouraged to see men and women become self-sufficient through these programs and instantly wanted to integrate this model into my summer project. At the time I knew that child sponsorship programs were becoming a model of the past for the younger giving generation, donors of all ages were also becoming more and more skeptical, and in tough economic times the average person looks out for their own interests. Most young people may find it difficult to part with their cash for donation purposes, especially when they feel they won’t receive anything tangible from their gift. I’ve always had a passion for fashion, beauty, and accessories, which led me to combine life skills, income generation, and the creation and distribution of ethical fashion and accessories. You can take a look at one of my first projects in the video below. It features a couple who have been able to change their economic situation and support their family by making scarves to be sold through NationWares in North America as they also produce local traditional clothing to be sold in their own community.
Let’s skip ahead 5 years. To say that I learned a ton during the first 4 years of operating NationWares would be an understatement. I tested out the charity model to find that it simply wasn’t enough. It needed to be set firm on a foundation of business and since I have a love/hate relationship with business I needed NationWares not to focus on profit and numbers in a self-interested way, but take the whole triple bottom line concept of people, planet, profit, and push it further. That’s why today NationWares is a social enterprise (a business that exists to serve a social cause) that is breaking the cycle of poverty for multiply marginalized people around the world who have been impacted not only by poverty, but also disability, HIV/AIDS, and other factors that lead to marginalization and vulnerability.
I built NationWares to use fashion as a vehicle to drive sustainable employment for over 2,000 current beneficiaries in 10 different countries as they create ethical products that positively impact their society, the economy, and the environment as we expand their market and share their products with North Americans. Our programs go beyond fashion and fair trade as we provide vocational training, creative education, and mentorship resources through the NationWares International Foundation to ensure sustainability and overall success. By purchasing any of our unique products, our customers transform the lives of those deemed the most marginalized and help us create recognized business people, local heroes, and community leaders.
That’s my personal and NationWares journey as a young entrepreneur in a nutshell. To those who find themselves wanting their dream job in the field of giving and doing good I can’t stress the importance of volunteerism and risk taking. The most rewarding jobs don’t always have the most rewarding salaries (or may not even come with a salary at all). Be ready to innovate, get messy, and challenge the system. To all the givers out there, I encourage each of you to give in whatever capacity you can. Any form of giving is great! If you’re a supporter of charity, continue to support charity. If charity doesn’t sit well with you, don’t use that as an excuse not to give; find something you believe in. Businesses usually get a bad reputation but a lot of them are becoming more concerned with the planet and its people under the umbrella of social responsibility. NationWares profits bring sustainable change and help keep the cycle of employment moving. Find companies like us that use their products and profits to do good things and invest in the greater good for all people and societies around the world.
Time to get giving!