Changing Lives Through Hope, Love, and a Pretty Dress
** To commemorate National Wear A Dress Day, OGTV is sharing this story about a woman from Michigan whose initial effort of making dresses to empower young girls in rural Africa is now spreading to countries across the world. **
On vacation in Africa ten years ago, Rachel O'Neill discovered what life was like for little girls in rural villages. In that culture, little girls come last, getting the fewest resources and the least opportunities to improve themselves. Rachel decided to take on the challenge of empowering these girls and making them feel important and special. She started by sewing simple dresses out of pillowcases and Little Dresses for Africa was born.
Making the girls feel that they are first, for once, is a key part of the mission of Rachel's nonprofit. Coordinating the creative efforts of volunteers all across America and many countries worldwide who sew and ship their creations to her, this Michigan based organization receives on average 20 boxes of finished clothing a day and has delivered 8 million dresses to 87 countries, 47 of them in Africa, since their founding in 2008. What started as a grassroots effort now has collection and distribution points all around the globe, changing lives here and across the ocean.
Since that first visit to Africa, Rachel has led dozens of short term trips and developed many deep and lasting friendships across the continent, with the home base being in Malawi, the "warm heart of Africa". Her follow up trips each year provide encouragement, teaching and school supplies as well as little dresses for the girls and britches for the boys. The clothing serves as "ambassadors", providing access to remote homes and villages and opening opportunities to teach simple lessons about clean water and sanitation and to promote good health and family skills knowledge. As relationships are formed, there is a focus on 3 quality of life improvements for everyone in the villages: clean water, education and community.
This focus on the essentials of healthy living which started with simple dresses. is raising the aspirations of little girls across the continent. "I've been going there now for 12 years," Rachel noted, "and I've heard so many stories about people that say it was just that little bit of hope that made them think that maybe I am able to go to school. And that hope changes how they see themselves."
See how the small acts of love from Rachel and all her volunteers are reaching across the ocean and paving the way for brighter futures for little girls in Africa and around the world.
Learn more at: https://littledressesforafrica.org/
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Produced by JoAnn Guidice and Dani Guitelman Edited by Elizabeth Kunkle
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