ISU makes little dresses for Africa


Photo courtesy of the Workspace

Little Dresses for Africa allows volunteers to create dresses from pillowcases, which are donated to children in Africa.

Carlie Howard

The apparel, merchandising and design program at Iowa State participates in Little Dresses for Africa every semester.

The international organization encourages people to sew basic dresses that are sent to the less fortunate. The dresses are not only gifted in Arica but also anywhere that is in need. They are distributed across the word, including areas in the United States. Within the past five years, about 100 dresses have been sent a semester.

“We call it a service learning program”, said Sharon Wirth, lab coordinator in apparel, events and hospitality management.

Not only is the program a service project, but students are able to pull together the skills they have to make a difference. Wirth feels it is satisfying for students to construct an actual garment rather than the small samples of skills that are learned in class. Additionally, it gives the students a sense of responsibility to do their best possible job because an actual person will wear their garment.

The students as well generally tend to love the project, Wirth said.  “I get back really heartfelt comments.”

Wirth also explained how she feels it is important that ISU students look beyond Ames.

“There are so many ways to help out and make the world a better place,” she said.

Although it is easy for students to get stressed in their everyday lives, it is important to take a couple of minutes and consider the stress and struggles that underprivileged children are dealing with.

This service-learning program is likely to continue and grow. In the future, the apparel, merchandising and design program is looking into participating in Britches for Boys, which is a part of the Little Dresses for Africa organization for males.

Wirth also expressed her joy for the project.

“It is rewarding for me as an instructor, and we will continue to do it,” she said.