When DoSomething awards semi-finalist Amie Sider was growing up, it made her mad to see people living in poverty and struggling with disabilities. She decided to ignore all of the people who told her she was “too young” to make a difference. And what did she do? She proved them wrong by starting the organization Nationwares to help create employment opportunities. Yeah, she’s amazing.
How did you feel when you first learned of the problem you are addressing?
When I was younger it made me sad and as I grew up it actually made me angry to see so many people here in Canada and around the world live their lives feeling unloved and alienated. I always felt like a lot of programs out there were putting a small Band-Aid on these complex situations of exclusion and marginalization.
How do you feel about it now?
There is a lot of stigma and stereotyping attached with disability and poverty. The world needs to know who these people really are, and how they really aren’t looking for handouts or pity. They are looking for the same hope, opportunity, and dignity that many of us take for granted.
What person or experience sticks with you from when you first started your project?
The first group I ever worked with when I created NationWares was a group of gentlemen in Ethiopia who all had lower body disabilities. These men were determined to start a business and together we came up with the concept of the coffee bean bracelet! Today the group supports over 150 people who now have income, homes, hope, opportunity, and real inclusion in business and their community.
Who or what is your inspiration to keep going.
My inspiration always comes from the artisans, entrepreneurs, and individuals we support around the world. For me, this is a reminder that NationWares isn’t just a business... it’s about working together, uplifting one another, and creating global support networks.
Can you describe the moment that you knew you were actually making a difference?
I really knew NationWares was making a difference when I heard all the success stories come flooding in. Single homeless mothers who now had income and could send their kids to school, disabled men and women who were no longer excluded from work or their families, HIV positive individuals were now ethically employed in safe working environments. All of them have personally thanked me for giving them the opportunity to show what they were really capable of.
What was the most difficult roadblock you faced when you tried to start your project? When you were growing it?
Like anyone else who is working to make his or her own vision a reality, financing is usually an obstacle. It can be tough to really get your idea out there so people will back it up and fund it. Finding donors, supporters, and volunteers can be discouraging at first, but it comes with time.
What’s been the biggest lesson through the process?
I’ve learned that real change doesn’t come easy. It isn’t glamorous or self-glorifying… it’s a lifestyle, commitment, dedication, passion, and most of all it is humbling. There’s always something to learn, and there’s always someone out there who will need you to come along and walk beside them.
What has surprised you the most about the journey that has taken you here today?
I’m surprised at how amazing our support has been from the people and volunteers I meet along the way. Whether they are customers, fans, supporters, donors, or students…they each keep me accountable, focused, and encouraged to keep pressing on and moving forward to create change for vulnerable people around the world and right here in North America.
What advice do you have for other young leaders who are having a tough time getting their ideas off the ground?
Be willing to make sacrifices. Starting an organization takes a ton of time, lots of patience, and crazy amounts of dedication. It’s definitely easier to sit back and let someone else tackle the issues of our world, but nothing can compare to the reward you receive when you know that you have changed a life forever.
If you could have done one thing differently based on what you know now, what would it be and why?
I would have taken a little more time to enjoy the ride. Lots of sleepless nights and real blood, sweat, and tears were shed. I now know the importance of teamwork and volunteer support.
What’s next for your project?
The storefront here in Kitchener or Toronto will be the next stepping block we take to really unite our international work, education systems, development programs and training models in developing nations with the work we can do for the same marginalized groups right here in our own community.
If you could have any celebrity film a PSA for your organization, who would it be and why?
I would love to work with Elisabeth Olsen or Willow Smith. They are both young up and coming icons in the fashion industry as they have such incredible style and presence.
What Can You Do?
Learn more about all of the Do Something Awards Semi-Finalists.