Little Dresses for Africa creates hope

Katherine Klingseis

On a continent where poverty runs rampant, a simple pillowcase can bring a wealth of happiness.

Little Dresses for Africa, a non-profit, Christian-based organization, sends dresses made from pillowcases to orphanages in Central Africa. This past weekend, the Workspace at the Memorial Union held an event benefiting the organization. People from the Ames community were asked to drop by and help with cutting, ironing and sewing the pillowcases.

“[Sunday is] all about getting things done and sent off,” said Pilar Macek, employee at the Workspace.

Little Dresses for Africa began after a group of women visited Malawi on a mission trip and saw how tattered the little village girls’ dresses were. Due to the widespread AIDS pandemic, many children are left to fend for themselves. Without money or guidance, children are unable to obtain clothing. The women realized this, and from that moment on, dedicated themselves to helping the little girls.

The women decided to use pillowcases because they are common and the hem is already in the material, making it easier to sew. Pillowcases were donated to the Workspace by Hotel Memorial Union, and many people who went to the work days brought their own pillowcases.

“It’s a really easy way to get involved,” Macek said. “Pretty much anybody can help.”

The organization’s website makes creating the dresses easy. The organization offers step-by-step instructions in making the dresses, so even a novice seamstress can make a beautiful dress. The directions specify how to make different size dresses. Even children can help by decorating the dresses.

“It’s a community event,” Macek said. “You meet a lot of people, and it’s a good cause.”

The organization asks for all of the dresses to be sent to Brownstown, Mich. So far, 50,000 dresses have been sent to 13 countries in Africa.

The distribution of the dresses offers opportunities for the organization to hold camps and teaching sessions about nutrition and sanitation. The organization also visits people suffering from AIDS and offers them encouragement and support.

The dresses made by Ames residents will soon arrive in Africa. These dresses will not just serve as clothing; they will serve as means of increasing the girls’ sense of hope.

After years of oppression and sadness, many of the girls have lost any hope in having good, long lives. The dresses allow the girls to know someone cares about them. The new-found knowledge will help the girls to regain their hope in one day having better lives.