Back when she was in second grade, Lily Miller volunteered at a craft fair to help raise money to build a playground where all kids could play, including children with vision, hearing or mobility impairments and others with special needs.
She and her mom, Terry, had given great thought to what they would contribute to the fair, and after some research online, they decided to make stuffed lovebirds.
Their plump little creations proved so popular that Lily, now 9 years old, wondered whether she could do more with them.
She and Terry read “I Am Malala,” by Nobel Peace Prize-winner Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teen who was shot by the Taliban for speaking out about education rights for girls. Lily found her answer.
She says she was surprised that some girls “cannot learn to read or do math because they are not allowed to go to school.”
The Miller set up a production line in their Missoula, Montana, home. Lily traced and cut the template and she and her younger sister, Maizy, stuffed the birds. Terry then stitched everything together, with the entire process taking about 45 minutes.
So far, they’ve made and sold about 500 of the birds – available at www.lilyslovebirds.com – raising $4,000. They donate the money primarily to Conscious Connections Foundation, a nonprofit based in Spokane, Washington. The organization’s program Power of 5 is devoted to helping girls in Nepal gain access to education.
“It’s important for girls to go to school because when we teach girls about the world, they will teach their kids and the world will become a peaceful place,” says Lily. The organization says that a donation of just $5 can send a Nepalese girl to school for one month.
Besides helping those in need, the effort has other payoffs. “The Nepalese girls write thank-you notes to Lily and Maizy,” says Terry, “so there’s a real close connection to the other side of the world.”
Practical lessons also include the mathematic (figuring out how many girls they are helping) and the geographical. (“Yes! I want to go to Nepal,” says Lily. “I want to see Mt. Everest!”)
Gradually, the Millers’ speed in making the birds increased – the trio now spends about 15 minutes on each one. They’ve enlisted dad, Ken, to help with the shipping.
This past spring, the family’s effort was highlighted by A Mighty Girl, a website that catalogs educational materials for girls; two days later, a massive earthquake hit Nepal, killing thousands and devastating villages.
Now, the lovebirds are on back order ($9 for one, three for $25) as the girls and their mom work to catch up. Lily is in charge of the designs – she prefers a style that uses a colorful pattern on top and a solid on the bottom. “A lot of the fabrics are donated,” she says, “and I like looking through all the different ones.”
As the lovebirds wait to take flight, Lily says she “gets happy just thinking about where they’re going.”