Unused pillowcases get second chance

Taylor Hilsabeck

Little Dresses for Africa is a nonprofit Christian organization that distributes simple dresses made out of pillowcases to orphanages, churches and schools in poor countries in Africa “to plant in the heart of little girls that they are worthy.” This program allows people to reuse a household item for a unique purpose.

Rachel O’Neill, from Brownstone, Mich., began Little Dresses for Africa after traveling in Malawi, East Africa, and noticed the little girls were the ones doing the most work for the families, yet had the least to call their own. She wished she could do something for the girls to feel special.

Five years later, the program has received dresses and donations from all 50 states. More than 500,000 little dresses have been distributed to 31 countries of Africa, as well as Mexico, Haiti, Guatamala and to children in need in the United States. 

“When we are there, it’s not just about delivering the dresses. We are delivering hope,” O’Neill said. “We are there to teach, help provide nutrition and send joy to the families. One experience of delivering the dresses, I was speaking to a widow through an interpreter, and she thanked me, saying that when she went to bed the night before, she did not know if her family would be able to eat the next day. That has really stuck with me.” 

If anyone is interested in sending their own pillowcases, they can be sent to Little Dresses for Africa at 24614 Curtis Drive, Brownstone, Mich. 48134.

The dresses are then distributed among missionaries who routinely deliver them to different countries in Africa.

Pillowcase dress directions:

Any size pillowcase will work.

Cut the sewn end of the pillowcase top off, leaving the hem.

Fold the pillowcase in half and cut out the arm holes so they will be the same on each side. The measurements depend on the size of the pillowcase, but it’s about 4 inches down and 2 inches in. Fold down the top of the strip about 3/8 inches and stitch a casing. Slide a 6-inch piece of elastic at the top so it will be gathered.

Finish the arm holes with double-sided tape, leaving enough at the ends to tie at the shoulders.

Don’t be concerned about exact measurements. All sizes are welcome and variations are fine.

Visit the website at www.littledressesforafrica.org for more information.