This is Hannelore Ponto’s advice to anyone wondering how they can make a difference in alleviating poverty. Hannelore’s story—a woman not afraid to step out into new things—just might encourage you to start something new while making a difference.
What is Hannelore up to? We recently had the privilege of chatting with this joy-filled and vibrant woman. Hannelore has been sewing masks since COVID-19 hit Canada in March 2020. She has made almost 400 masks and raised $400 for Food for the Hungry (FH) Canada!
It was around the time her husband passed away in 2001 that Hannelore first learned of the work of FH Canada. She was invited on a 10 day FH trip to Peru to experience development work first hand. This trip was, as she enthusiastically described it, “a dream come true.”
Hannelore Ponto is a wonderful example of the abundant and flourishing life. A mother of three and retired bus driver, she also taught piano lessons, Sunday school, and bus safety workshops all across the massive school district of Caribou, as well as ran a mid-week children’s Bible program out of her house. And if this wasn’t enough, she also produced a Christian TV show for five years on community television in Williams Lake!
These days, by using her skills and passion for sewing, Hannelore just might be making someone else’s dreams come true as her support of FH helps communities move from stuck to thriving.
MJ: Hannelore, how did you end up making masks and raising money for FH?
HP: Well, I never intended to raise money. In fact, I don’t like asking for money, but sewing masks is just something I can do and that's how I ended up here! I was making scrubs for my daughter, who is a LPN in B.C. earlier this year, and then COVID came along and I had the skills to make masks. I started making them for family and friends. Just giving them away.
One day a friend offered me $20 for a mask, and I said “No way!” So the friend said I should pass the money on to my favourite charity. I now suggest that in lieu of payment I will take donations for Food for the Hungry.
MJ: You must have some sewing experience. Where did you learn to sew?
HP: I am actually a trained couturiere. When I retired I wanted to develop some new skills, and I took classes at Ecole Holt Couture in Calgary [a school of sewing and fashion design dedicated to teaching the fine art of haute couture sewing]. I graduated at the age of 71 from a four year program.
MJ: So, these masks must be pretty fancy then!
HP: (Laughing) Hah!, No, they are just masks. But I do have fun with them, using Halloween and Christmas fabrics to make them seasonal.
MJ: What would you say to someone who is wondering how they can help others? Someone who isn’t sure where to start?
HP: Just start! It doesn’t matter if you are scared or not scared. Just jump right in and open doors. When a door opens I just jump right through it! We can often end up not doing the right thing because we just don’t start. So, I guess the best encouragement I can give is to just start.
Food for the Hungry recently checked in with Hannelore and her mask making venture as we enter into 2021. Due to some health issues she had to take a break from sewing for a few weeks, but is now on the mend and ready to once again get out her needle and thread. In fact, the morning that we spoke with her she had met a neighbour at the mailbox who handed her another $20 donation in return for a mask. In her bright and humble way her response was, “This is all so wonderful. I just wanted to make masks and give them away!”