Saturday | November 18, 2017
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September is collection time for Dress a Girl

Island coordinators of the international Dress a Girl Around the World sewing project will be collecting the next batch of dresses sewn by isle volunteers in September, in time to get the pretty garments shipped and ready for delivery during the holidays in December.

Dress a Girl’s motto is “Because every girl deserves at least one new dress,” said Jen Laris, East Hawaii ambassador for Dress a Girl International. For more information, contact her at For West Hawaii details, email Betty Burlile at

For the past several years, Big Island women have been sewing up a storm for the project, which provides simple handmade dresses for girls in impoverished areas of the world. Even if sewing is not your bag, there are lots of other ways to assist.

And, even if you have only basic sewing skills, or haven’t sewn in quite awhile and are real rusty, you are invited to learn “how easy it is to make a dress and make a difference,” said Laris.

The international project is part of “Hope4Women International,” a nonprofit organization. Dress a Girl got its Big Island start at the parishes of St. Michael the Archangel in Kailua-Kona and St. Joseph’s in Hilo, where Mary Freitas and Sharon Paopao led the first group of seven volunteer sewers and cutters in 2011.

Together they made 125 dresses, all from donated fabric and materials and all created from a pattern so simple: A pillow case, some elastic and some bias tape are all that’s needed. Throw in a bit of rick-rack or ribbon, and you have a pretty dress, one any girl would be proud to wear.

For girls who have never owned anything new, whose clothes all come from rag bags, shipped from secondhand clothes dealers in the U.S., a new dress is very special.

“It isn’t just the dress that is important,” explained Laris. “It is the increased feelings of self-worth and dignity the dresses give these girls.”

Children who look well cared for are less apt to be abducted or seen as easy targets by those who prey on the vulnerable children of the world, she added.

In November of 2011, the Family and Community Education Hilo Council voted to make Dress a Girl a council project.

Laris, of Hilo’s Ho‘ike Club, and Burlile, of Kailua-Kona, have been leading the charge, sewing dresses, collecting donations, teaching and encouraging volunteers.

At cutting parties, “dress kits” are cut, bagged and marked in sizes from 6 months to pre-teen. The kits are distributed to club and church groups as well as individual volunteers to turn into dresses.

By 2012, the Dress a Girl project had spread islandwide. Susan Hicks and the Keaau Center for Spiritual Living made and donated 152 dresses. Sewing instructors Roberta Mueller and Mariah Bath (Kilauea Kreations) made 61 dresses between them.

Burlile’s Kailua group and the sewers from St. Joseph Church, the Hilo community and FCE have continued to sew and donate supplies and money to Dress a Girl.

Last year, Alvin Araki of Hilo raised more than $300 for the project by selling lychee at FCE’s rummage sale and St. Joseph’s Church. He and fellow International Rotarian Gabriel Trias Jr. distributed 60 dresses to Bagbag Elementary School in Rosario, Cavite, the Philippines, in August during devastating flooding. Francis Delacruz, a physical therapist at Life Care Center of Hilo, shipped more than 300 dresses to his parents in Dagupan City, Panyasinan, the Philippines, for distribution to girls in their community.

All told, in 2012, Big Island volunteers were able to send more than 3,000 Dress a Girl dresses around the world, to Cambodia, the Philippines, Guatemala, Sri Lanka and elsewhere.

“We need community help too, as I have a community member who will be helping to dress the girls with family and friends in the Philippines for the holidays,” said Laris. “They are visiting family there for Christmas.”

Earlier this year, 15 Shooting Star 4-H Club girls sewed dresses to earn their sewing badges. At the Center for Spiritual Living in Keaau, members have been busy making and dressing girls for well over a year. Through their help and a contact who lives in an ashram in Kona, 200 dresses were delivered in May and they have offered to mail garments to the Shantipuri Friends Foundation in India. Father Joseph’s Leper School will receive 100 and the other 100 will go to the girls at the Mangalandani Swami. A swami will be visiting Kona this fall, and would like to take back 50 more dresses. For more information, visit www.Shaktipuri

“And our Hilo contact and his family will be spending the holidays in the Philippines. Along with family and friends living there, they will dress the girls in time for Christmas with dresses we’re sending to his parents from our September goal,” said Laris.

Visit www.dressagirl


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