Purses with a purpose

Internet photo - Joanne Jones, a local designer, crafts purses to fund education for women in Third World countries.

By VANDA DOBRITOIU

Cambridge designer, Joanne Jones, creates handbags in order to help women in Third World countries get a secondary education.
The 42-year-old woman always dreamed of creating her own designs.
At the age of five, Jones’s mother showed her how to operate a sewing machine, and then left her unattended to practise threading on paper, with no thread in the machine.
When she returned, Jones had designed, cut and sewn a strapless bikini out of five metres of forest green fabric.
At 19, Jones was accepted into the International Academy of Merchandising and Design in Toronto.
Before she began her studies, in late August, Jones was diagnosed with a blood infection that had her bedridden through half of the first semester.
During the time she missed from school, her parents persuaded her to study political science and economics at university.
The following year, Jones was enrolled at McMaster University, putting her dream of being a fashion designer on hold.
At the age of 30, Jones made a U-turn in her career, going from working as a financial planner to designing her own handbags.
“I figured it was now or never,” said Jones, smiling. “I tried different fashion looks with recycled clothing.”
In 2005, Mined reCreations came to life, when Jones met a handful of ladies from Soweto.
“I tried different names. Then I was inspired by how Oprah named her shop Harpo, and thought ‘What is denim spelled backwards?’ That’s how mined came to be,” Jones said.
With over 3,500 products sold over the past five years, Jones is recognized by fashion designers in the community. Since 2007, her designs have been displayed seasonally at high-end artisan shows such as the One of a Kind Show and Sale in Toronto, Originals Shows in Ottawa and the Art Market in Calgary.
Her handbags are found as far as Calgary and Saskatoon where they sell year-round.
“She’s wonder woman,” said Yvonne Thermann, store owner of Rainbow Glass in Calgary. “Jones is just the most incredible person. Her purses are useful, functional and of great quality.”
A winner of the Bernice Adams Memorial Award, Jones does not keep the profits for herself, but rather helps others around her. While teaching Going Green with Your Sewing Machine at the Cambridge Centre for the Arts, she is also helping women across the ocean receive a proper education.
From the money she makes selling the handbags, Jones, along with the Central Presbyterian Church in Cambridge, sponsors a young woman through the Pennies Project.
People who want to be sponsored must live in a Third World country and fill out an application that has questions about themselves, what they hope to accomplish in school and their vision after they finish their education.
“We want to help people who desire to be educated in their countries and go back into their communities to make a difference. We want them to be who they are, where they’re from,” said Jones.
With approximately $30,000 donated over the past five years, Jones sponsors one student at a time, throughout her whole time in school.
They are given 100 per cent of the tuition in the first two years.
In their third year they are given 75 per cent and 50 per cent in their fourth. The purpose is for them to get started and then they can get a part-time job and fund the rest on their own, said Jones.
The student currently being sponsored is named Tsapong, from Lesotho, a country in Africa.
The 19-year-old is studying accounting.
In the near future, Jones plans to continue her studies in Milan, Italy where she will further her knowledge of handbag making.

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