Somewhere in the Philippines, a girl is wearing a dress sewn in Findlay. She doesn’t know who sewed the dress, or maybe even why. All she knows is that someone cared enough to give her something pretty.
That’s the goal of Dress A Girl Around the World, an international project that since 2006 has organized sewing marathons to make dresses for girls in underprivileged areas. A pretty dress won’t solve the bigger problems that girl and her family might have, but it might help to make her feel worthwhile and valued.
Sewing marathon at FHS
For the last six years students in Laurie Collert’s fashion design class at Findlay High School have sewn dresses for the project, organized by Hope 4 Women International, which sends dresses to 38 countries. The students organize the one-day sewing marathon, which takes over the school’s cafeteria and involves community volunteers. Their first year, students made 200 dresses. Last year, the seamstresses sewed 1,532 dresses from patterns provided by Hope 4 Women International.
“When we build a skill in our class we like to do something with it,” says Laurie, a teacher of family and consumer sciences. “This project builds confidence in their skills and someone else can benefit from it.”
Over the years, students have knit hats and made other items as part of their community service. There was something about the dress project, however, that Laurie felt might appeal to her teenagers. Every girl deserves at least one pretty thing in her life, no matter her circumstances. Teenage girls helping other girls with a pretty but practical item seemed a natural match.
“We try to make them so they are happy dresses, and we make them for high school-age girls, too,” she says. “Some of these (recipient) girls have on what they have on and that’s it. It’s a reality check – for some of them, that’s the only bit of clothing they might have.”
Community members get involved
Students start meeting in mid-August to plan the sewing. By now the project is run nearly completely by students, from the planning to the publicity to the actual construction of garments. A core group of students lead the way, and marshal dozens of younger high schoolers. As word has spread about the event, more community members have volunteered their time as well. Many volunteers who can’t be at the high school on that day will take the patterns home and sew on their own time.
This year’s coordinator was senior Anna Schumm. She and other girls who have taken a fashion design class with Laurie volunteered about five to 10 hours a week with the project leading up to the actual sewing day.
“Over the years I have seen various pictures and videos of the girls receiving their dresses and there are no words to describe how rewarding it is to see the impact this project has made,” says Anna.
Whether it’s 200 dresses or 2,000 dresses, Laurie feels the project has benefit not only girls around the world but her students here at home.
“I feel the project has been a success- the main goal for us is the help young women understand the power they have,” says Collert. “They are very proud of what they’ve done for others.”
For more information about the project or to volunteer,
call Findlay High School’s main office at 419-425-8289.