Monday, January 17, 2011

my introduction to little dresses for africa

we're not sending dresses
we're sending hope!!
When I found out about the organization, Little Dresses for Africa, I was very excited.
 I went to the website and tried to send an email. 
The website was getting so many hits, that when I clicked the button to submit my email, it didn’t go anywhere
 and the little hour glass
 just went round and round.
 I tried again with the same result. So I decided to give her a call 
(she is pretty brave to list her phone number but I really didn’t expect to get an answer) 
I was right. I got her voice mail. I left her a brief message and went on with my day, figuring that I would try again once the novelty of the TV show had worn off.
You can imagine my surprise 
When I received an email response from her only a few hours later. In the email she offered to speak with me on the phone to discuss the possibility of bringing the little girls of Guinea Bissau into the fold.
A Conversation with Rachel O'Neill

When I phoned her on Sunday evening, she was at her home in MI busy caring for a couple of active 2 year old, Mulawi twins. 
I could hear them playing and laughing loudly in the background. 
She said they were throwing the pillows on the floor. 
You could hear the love in her voice as she spoke about them. 
I wondered if on top of providing dresses for the girls in Africa, 
she had also adopted the twins? 
She explained that they were in fact, the children of a couple who attend her church.
 She volunteers to watch them on Sunday’s to give the parents some time alone.

As the conversation made its way to her passion, Little Dresses for Africa, 
she said over and over again how fulfilled she is 
from doing this most needed work for the girls of Africa. 
She told me about the look of sadness and despair in the eyes of the children,
 especially the girls. 
They are treated like second class citizens in an extremely patriarchal society. 
They are at the bottom of the totem pole. 
Girls are routinely oppressed and abused.  
The girls don't hold out much hope for their lives and just accept their fate. 
That's just how it is!

Rachel has been to Africa 5 times and started Little Dresses for Africa 3 years ago. She has supplied around 100,000 dresses to 16 countries but....she hasn't distributed any to my girls in Guinea Bissau. 

She talked to me a little about my journey to discover my African roots 
and was very excited by the prospect of working with me and providing these beautiful dresses to the little girls of Guinea Bissau. 
She graciously offered her patterns for my use and explained that I was not obligated to use the "pillowcase" pattern but could make any type of dress with any fabric of my choice  The only warning: was NOT to use buttons or zippers as they cannot be maintained and the girls wear the same dress day in and day out
until they are tattered to shreds. 
We talked a bit about the process of making the dresses. 
My plan is to host my first party in January. 
I asked her how her parties were structured 
and was totally surprised when she said, 
"Oh, I don't sew!" 
I had not watched the video 
(which I posted on yesterday's blog post - 
so I really knew nothing) 
"What?" I said. 
She told me that she oversees the process.
I thought it was amazing that she could put this phenomenal organization together
 and not be able to sew a stitch. 
Inside I began to feel a bit better about my situation. 
I have been kind of nervous because I'm not very good at sewing 
and if I didn't have to sew...well, I wouldn't. 
Anyway, once I get the dresses made I can send them to her 
and she will get them labeled,
 separated by size 
and shipped 
to the girls in Guinea Bissau.

photo above courtesy of con-tain-it

One of the things that Rachel said to me in closing 
(and one reason why I believe she has a selfless commitment to helping the children of Africa) 
was that
 my finding her and the organization - may turn out to be 
just what I have been looking for may turn out to be 
just a stepping stone or a beginning 
 to some other great cause. 
Either way she was happy that I had called! 
And, I believe her.


Anonymous said...

I think that Little Dresses for Africa is a wonderful organization! I thought it was so cool that my cousin and I did it for our FCCLA Project. We sewed a total of 86 dresses with our local communties help! We also had over $1055.36 of supplies donated to us! We had so much fun and plan to keep making more dresses throughout the summer. Thank you so much for making this website and for making people aware of this great thing. I think that it is a great experience and it is easy to make a huge impact on someone else's life!

devon said...

Thank you for your comment. You really had a very successful project! And I agree it is a wonderful organization and it feels so good to help other people. Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

I am starting a project making these dresses in my community. This is such an inspiring way to help the children in Africa!

devon said...

I really is. Good luck with your dresses and have fun!!