Ukhrul: BORN AND BROUGHT up in her hometown Ukhrul (bordering Burma) in the Northeast state of Manipur, Rakmi Shaiza was engaged in several community-building activities prior to moving to the United States. Before her transition, Rakmi served in several organizations and her local church. She was Hunphun Katamnao Long (HKL) cultural secretary; Tangkhul Katamnao Long (TKS) Treasurer, general secretary of Phungyo Baptist Youth Society, Phungyo Baptist Church to mention a few.
She left Ukhrul in 2000 to pursue Theological studies at Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City. After graduating from the Seminary, she wanted her work to not only provide income for herself but also to be part of a group that works to make the world a better place to live for women, girls, and for every life by paying attention to how one’s actions affect others. For the last 8 years, Rakmi has learned, created, and contributed several vital projects to her community and beyond. Most of the women in Stitching Change have now been consistently creating supplementary incomes and helping their families.
Rakmi Shaiza believes her calling in life is to be in the field of service to people and community building. She has always enjoyed coordinating and teaching her neighbor’s kids to perform special numbers on special occasions like church services on Sunday mornings and other neighborhood gatherings when she was younger in Ukhrul town.
Besides the many significant personal experiences that motivated her to begin Stitching Change, Rakmi’s identity as a woman led her to understand the harsh realities of the community’s most vulnerable: women refugees and their families. Having met some of the hardest working refugee women and their families from different nationalities like Burma (Myanmar), Africa, Syria, and Nepal who were in dire need of emotional, mental, social, and financial support. Rakmi’s core mission for building Stitching Change community is to bring people together to help and learn from each other, to build peace, collaborate and work together and create supplementary income for their families.
Having learned about gender inequality, she’s drawn to work for the empowerment of women and girls.
Speaking on the many challenges she faces as an immigrant herself working with people coming from different races, ethnicity, and background, she told this reporter, “All good things demand hard work, learning to live simple, and challenging yourself to step out of your comfort zone and I would be lying if I said that starting something from the grassroots was easy. I am still learning about organizational safety rules, good communication skills, organizational visions and how to carry them out, conflict management, fundraising, taxes, networking, and time management. I think one of the hardest parts is managing people who come from different cultures. Understanding the power dynamic between races is continual work. Being an immigrant I tend to second-guess my decisions a lot, and that is difficult when you don’t have a good group who are willing to do the hard work to support each other. During these eight years, I have spent some sleepless nights working through these challenges. I’m grateful for our women and volunteers who care about doing good work in life as deeply as I do. They continue to teach me to be a better human being.”
Speaking of her husband, John Fish, she told, “I’m extremely lucky that I have a soul mate who is also a community activist who shares my values about building community and putting people and the planet before profits. I also have some dedicated faith leaders, community leaders, friends, and my family here and back home who are willing to listen and support me.”
Rakmi considers Stitching Change not only a work project but also a mission to create social change and represent the dreams, ideas, voices, and values of women that are all too often ignored.
“I’m very grateful to Life and to God that I get to do this kind of work and pave the way for the generation that is coming after me,” said Rakmi.
Rakmi Shaiza is greatful to Causeartist for 32 Inspiring Nonprofit Leaders Who Will Impact the World in 2022 and Indiaspora for Making Their Mark: Indian Diaspora Leaders Impacting the Non-Profit Industry, considering her non-profit among the change-makers.
What is Stitching Change?
Stitching Change founded by Rakmi Shaiza on October 1st, 2014 is a non-profit organization based in Kansas City, Missouri, that brings women together to work collaboratively, market their products, and provide them with supplementary income. They also work to repurpose surplus and scrap fabrics into beautiful, handcrafted products, keeping them out of landfill and preventing pollution.