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The Mighty Girl Turning Fabric Scraps Into Educational Opportunities for Girls

13-year-old Lily has raised over $7,000 to send girls to school by selling handmade fabric lovebirds.

When 9-year-old Mighty Girl Lily Miller learned it would only take $5 to send a girl in Nepal to school for a month, she was determined to find a way to help. So Lily recruited her younger sister Maizy and her mother Terry to help her make fabric scrap lovebirds to sell and Lily’s Lovebirds was born! Five years later, sales of her lovebirds — which also make lovely holiday gifts — have allowed the now 13 year old to donate over $7,000 to help other girls like her go to school. “Girls that go to school educate their children to go to school which makes the world a better and more peaceful place,” Lily explains. “I hope that one day I will see more girl presidents and great leaders in the world, but it all starts with going to school.”

Lily, who lives in Missoula, Montana, first started making fabric lovebirds in 2012 as part of her second grade class fundraiser for an all-abilities playground project. After the playground was complete, she wanted to find another way to put her lovebirds to good use. In fall 2014, she and her mother read Malala Yousafzai’s memoir I Am Malala. Lily says, "I did not know that some girls could not go to school, learn, play 4 square, write poems, do art and learn about the world." She decided to sell her lovebirds online, with the proceeds going to help support girls’ education efforts through the Conscious Connection Foundation - The Power of Five, the Malala Fund, and local school scholarship programs.

Lily makes as many of the birds as possible out of recycled fabric. She designs the pattern and cuts out the fabric pieces, while she and Maizy work together to stuff the birds. Lily says that her project has also helped her problem solving skills such as what to do with birds that develop a hole when they stuff them.  "We did not know what to do with these birds," she explains, "so we decided to fill them with catnip and donate the lovebirds to the homeless cats at our local animal shelter."

Her lovebirds have flown all over the world, including Australia, Scotland, Ireland, Canada, Italy, and most states in the US. She's also inspired Maizy, who's now 11, to create her own business, "Brave Bikes." She makes little bicycles out of recycled buttons and donates the funds to a group that buys bikes for girls in Malawi so they can get to school safely.

For her generous efforts, Lily was honored two years ago by the governor of Montana as the youngest ever "Service Montana" Award Winner, and this year she was recognized as one of the Williams Effect Foundation & Forward Montana's 25 under 25 Montana. But, the most exciting part to Lily is the difference she is making:  "It makes me feel amazing to help girls have more opportunities in life... opportunities that I get to have every day," she says. "When I get a letter from the girls I have helped it makes me so happy to see pictures of their faces and learn what they are doing across the world. That is why this project is important to me."

To support Lily's project by ordering lovebirds or by donating fabric, visit the Lily's Lovebirds website.

Resources for Fostering Children's Generosity

The Mitten String

The Mitten String

Written by: Jennifer Rosner
Illustrated by: Kristina Swarner
Recommended Age: 3 - 7

Oftentimes, the best ideas for helping locally come observing the needs of those around you. When Ruthie's family takes in a deaf woman and her baby, Ruthie wonders how she'll hear the baby if he wakes up at night, and Bayla shows her the string she ties around their wrists at night. So the talented young knitter decides to improve on the idea and creates a special pair of mittens linked by a string. That string, though, makes her think of all the children from her village and their constantly lost mittens. The same concept, she realizes, can help them as well. This small gesture of kindness is a great gift to her community: as her mother says, "You make our world a bit better with every stitch." For a similar story about a young girl using her knitting to do a kind deed, check out A Hat for Mrs. Goldman for ages 4 to 8.

Beatrice's Goat

Beatrice's Goat

Written by: Page McBrier
Illustrated by: Lori Lohstoeter
Recommended Age: 4 - 8

Beatrice lives in a small African village and dreams of going to school, but her family can’t afford the extra expenses of books and uniforms. A goat, provided by a donation to Heifer Project International, seems like a small gift, but soon the goat provides enough milk to feed the family plus extra to sell, and the difference to Beatrice’s family is astounding. This story, based on the real experience of one village, will give your Mighty Girl a tangible example of how even a small donation can make a big difference.

Sophie's Lovely Locks

Sophie's Lovely Locks

Written by: Erica Pelton Villnave
Recommended Age: 4 - 8

There are lots of ways to give more than time and money — you can even give when you get a haircut! Sophie loves her long, twirly, fancy hair... until she realizes that her extra-long hair tangles, snarls, and gets in the way of her busy days full of active play. The day she accidentally gets gum in her hair, she decides it's time for a new style — and learns that her hair can provide lovely locks for another child who has none. The final page shows a heartwarming image of an excited child receiving a much-anticipated wig made from Sophie's hair. This charming story includes a list of three different organizations that accept hair donations.

Ordinary Mary's Extraordinary Deed

Ordinary Mary's Extraordinary Deed

Written by: Emily Pearson
Illustrated by: Fumi Kosaka
Recommended Age: 4 - 8

The most amazing thing about kindness is how it ripples out beyond the original act! Mary finds a patch of blueberries on her way home, and decides to pick some for Mrs. Bishop. Mrs. Bishop in turn makes blueberry muffins that she gives to five people — one of whom helps five more, and then one of those helps five more... Before long, a variety of kindnesses, some with a small impact and some with a huge one, are creating a change that extends worldwide. It's a lovely testament to how little acts of compassion and kindness have big potential for the entire world.

Boxes for Katje

Boxes for Katje

Written by: Candace Fleming
Illustrated by: Stacey Dressen-McQueen
Recommended Age: 4 - 8

Katje's Dutch town has been ravaged by World War II, and her family is struggling to get by with almost nothing. Then, one day, a box arrives from America: a little girl named Rosie has sent necessities like soap and socks, and even chocolate for a treat! Katje is so thrilled that she sends a letter of thanks, and soon both girls are sending exchanges full of surprises. What started as an act of generosity becomes an ongoing relationship that changes the lives of both girls — and the people in both their towns — for the better. Candace Fleming based this story on her mother's childhood, and the story of how simple acts of generosity can last a lifetime is sure to get kids thinking about what their own acts of kindness can do.

Start Now! You Can Make a Difference

Start Now! You Can Make a Difference

Written by: Chelsea Clinton
Recommended Age: 7 - 11

Activism can sometimes seem overwhelming — but there are problems large and small that kids can tackle every day! In this book, Chelsea Clinton addresses five key concepts — health, hunger, climate change, endangered species, and bullying — and shows kids how to start solving them, either individually, locally, or globally. Each chapter ends with a "Start Now!" bullet list, providing suggestions for young would-be activists to take first steps towards big changes. Kids will particularly love the photographs of real kids, just like them, who have started leading the way for people around them.

Be A Changemaker: How to Start Something That Matters

Be A Changemaker: How to Start Something That Matters

Written by: Laurie Ann Thompson
Recommended Age: 12 and up

When a teen has an idea for a way to change the world, she may not know what to do to make it a reality. This book will guide her through it, step by step! Individual chapters cover everything from refining your idea to fundraising to creating a business plan, and even discuss what to do when you're ready to move on, whether you're closing down your project or handing it off to another person. Changing the world may not be easy, but with this book, she'll know where to start.

UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World

UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World

Written by: Dr. Michele Borba

Studies show that teens are 40% less empathetic today than they were thirty years ago – a trend that hurts both kids and society as a whole. In fact, self-focused behavior can hurt academic performance, lead to increases in bullying behavior, and reduce kids’ resilience when things go wrong. This thoughtful parenting book explores nine research-based habits to build kids’ empathy. From identifying and controlling their emotions to thinking about "us" not "them", these strategies can be used daily to encourage kids to see the world from the perspectives of other people around them, reducing rudeness and bullying and setting them up for a lifetime of positive relationships.

The Opposite of Spoiled

Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money

The Opposite of Spoiled

Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money

Written by: Ron Lieber

Money conversations can also provide a great opportunity to communicate family values about money and giving. This insightful parenting book shows how families of all income levels can talk with kids about money issues, not only to teach them about financial responsibility, but also to show them how the family's choices allow them to give to their community. Author Ron Lieber explores topics ranging from the Tooth Fairy to birthday parties to college tuition, encouraging parents to foster less materialism and more generosity; his examination of the attitudes we communicate to kids about money will help parents teach that money is a tool, not a goal, and that the reward comes from how you use it.

Smart Piggy Trio Bank

Smart Piggy Trio Bank

Manufacturer: Giantsuper
Recommended Age: 4 and up

Encourage kids to be smart with money with the help of this divided piggy bank! The three compartments of this bank encourage kids to split their money between spending, saving, and sharing, and three separate ledgers help them keep tracks as their funds grow. The set also includes a kid's guide to good money management.

Moonjar Classic Moneybox: Save, Spend, Share

Moonjar Classic Moneybox: Save, Spend, Share

Manufacturer: Moonjar
Recommended Age: 3 and up

Even little kids can learn basic money skills with the Moonjar Moneybox! Moonjar moneyboxes are divided into three separate compartments: Spend, Save, and Share. This division is a great way to teach children about the benefits of saving money for a special purpose versus spending it immediately. It also provides an easy way to make charitable giving a part of your child's life. For another divided piggy bank, check out the Smart Piggy Trio Bank for ages 4 and up, which includes three separate ledgers for tracking funds.

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