Rachel’s story- The Beginning of Little Dresses for Africa

History:  It all began when Founder Rachel O’Neill and her husband Michael went to Uganda and Kenya to celebrate her 50th birthday.  Avoiding black balloons and over-the-hill signs turned into a deep love for the Continent of Africa and the birth of a life-changing mission.  Nothing has been the same for the O’Neills since!  The vast beauty of the Continent and the wide smiles of the children captivated their hearts and Rachel was determined to return.  Along with this majesty, something else caught her eye and it was clear that she had met these people for a reason.  After observing the plight of especially women and children and the long road ahead for them, she was determined to honor them in some tangible way.  It was on her second trip, in “the warm heart of Africa” Malawi, that Little Dresses for Africa was born.  She determined to return with little dresses to give the girls and honor them as valuable people. Although clothing is definitely needed, these dresses are so much more than just something to wear.  These dresses go as little Ambassadors all over the world to plant in the hearts of little girls that they are worthy.  These dresses give the distributors an opportunity to meet and encourage those in need and to identify areas that can be addressed with help from the USA such as clean water and education.  Relationships are formed and information is shared. 

Since that first visit, Rachel has led dozens of short term trips and developed many deep and lasting friendships across Africa, with the home base being in Malawi, the “warm heart of Africa”.  Because of our strong ties and experience in Malawi, we go into a remote village, hire local tradesmen and work with the remote villages so as to not interfere with their economy.   Our short term trips follow up each year and provide encouragement, teaching and school supplies as well as little dresses for the girls and britches for the boys. Beginning as a grass roots effort, with a goal to take 1000 dresses to a single village, LDFA has grown to numbers well over 8 MILLION, with little dresses and “britches for boys currently being sent to 84 countries in and around Africa.  Collection and distribution points are now found all around the globe, changing lives here and across the ocean.

Simple little dresses are sewn by volunteers all over the world and distributed personally by teams led by Little Dresses for Africa, sent with mission groups, and mailed directly. As relationships are formed, needs are met by focusing on 3 areas: Our first focus is to provide a well to a community. Clean water serves a community with an average of 3000 people and saves lives immediately by increasing sanitation and providing clean drinking water.  It also decreases the amount of time children are required to spend in going great distances to carry water for daily needs and the temptation to draw water from contaminated streams because they are closer.  With the convenience of a nearby well, disease and sickness drops dramatically.  Our second focus is primary education.  There is no doubt that education can change the future for children.  We focus on primary education because in our travels we noted that the very small orphans and child-headed families have a very difficult time in completing primary school if it is too far away.  The distance puts them in jeopardy due to safety issues along with it just being too difficult on small ones.  Students may not proceed to secondary school without a certificate of completion from the primary school.  Unfortunately, by the time older children realize the importance of education they are much larger than the primary students and embarrassed to attend.  A local school in the village will ease that burden.  Our third focus is community.  For generations community has sustained the African people.  We find that providing a very modest place for the community to meet provides not only protection from the sun and also a place to meet during the rains, but can also serve as a feeding center, a place of worship and a place to host a mobile clinic.  Community is much more than friendship.  It is a way to sustain life by the sharing of information, resources and encouragement.

Lives are changed here and across the ocean as we join together to help the most vulnerable.

These projects are funded through your generosity by way of donations and fund raisers.  We encourage you to identify a specific project and help us make it happen.  You will be forever changed as a result and so will the community that you support.  Little Dresses prepares the way as relationships are formed.  “We’re not just sending dresses, we’re sending hope.”   Tangible hope that they can wear in the form of these little dresses,  hope shown with clean water, education and community.  Tangible HOPE.   The change will make an impact for generations to come.  Help us get them started.

We’re changing lives here and across the ocean.


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