By MaryHelen Swanson
“We’re not just sending dresses, we’re sending HOPE!” is the motto of Little Dresses for Africa, a non-profit organization that desires to make little girls in Africa feel worthy through the gift of a pretty sundress.
A group of local church women have that same desire, and find they really enjoy making these simple dresses for little girls they will never know or see.
Sewers pictured with the colorful dresses are (l to r): Anita, Carol, Shirley, Lynn, Shirley, Della, Joan. Not pictured: Marian, Lois, Marilyn, Vickie and Peggy. The dresses were made from pillowcases and fabric yardage, with bits of lace, ribbon and ruffles and lots of love. Photo supplied
Anita Ryberg of Harris, a member of First Lutheran Church of Harris (but organist at Salem Lutheran of Oxford), got this project started last year when she heard about it on Sewing with Nancy and through her embroidery groups. She checked out the Little Dresses for Africa website. There she learned how simple it was to sew the dresses from pillow cases as well as how appreciated the dresses are by the little girls who receive them.
She got a group of women stirred up about the project and they had great fun making 73 dresses that were taken to Wasa, Tanzania.
Let’s do it again
The women found it to be such an exciting project that they decided to do it again this year and will be sending more dresses with Ryberg who is making the trip to Africa with a mission group from the Fish Lake church later this month.
Along with the 70 dresses made locally, Ryberg will also be delivering 37 dresses from a group of women in Nebraska. The group found Ryberg’s name through a WELCA magazine and contacted her asking if she would take their dresses to Africa too.
The dresses are distributed through the orphanages, churches and schools. However, Ryberg will not be able to see the little girls as they receive their dresses as they are distributed in very remote areas and carried there by pastors.
That’s a lot of little girls
The websites notes that to date the non-profit has received over one million little dresses and donations from all 50 states, as well as from the UK, Canada, Mexico and Australia.
Besides Africa, dresses have also been sent to other countries in crisis such as Honduras, Guatemala, the Philippines, Cambodia, Mexico and thousands and thousands to Haiti.
The dresses have also been sent to children in need right here in the United States, in the Appalachian Mountains and South Dakota.
“More importantly,” the website notes, “than how many have been shipped, are the lives that they have touched as these little dresses go out as little ambassadors in the name of Jesus, to give hope to the children that receive them.”
Last Sunday there was a dedication service of the dresses destined for Africa at Salem Lutheran Church of Oxford.
Ryberg said people ask, “How many dresses do they need?”
She answers, “All of them.”
How you can participate
Little Dresses for Africa is a non-profit 501c3, Christian organization “changing lives one little dress at a time…..”
There are many ways to provide help… from starting or hosting your own sewing group, sizing and packing little dresses, or donating financially toward shipping costs.
To ensure that they actually get to the children, the majority of the dresses are sent with mission teams from the United States as they travel on their missions, for personal distribution.
Little Dresses for Africa hosts a team once a year to deliver the little dresses to the grateful and excited little girls that need them so desperately.
Donations to help in shipping and delivering costs are appreciated. It costs an average of $2/dress to get the dresses to the children.
Want to sew some pretty dresses for little girls?
Simple patterns are available at the website www.littledressesforafrica.org or feel free to use your own pattern, if you prefer.