Martha’s Vineyard joins Dress a Girl Around the World campaign

Gabriella Camilleri adds lace to a dress, while Pam Flam, who came with an ornate sewing box, works behind her. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

Some two dozen seamstresses, ranging in age from six to sixty-something, broke out the needles and cranked up sewing machines at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School on Saturday to create simple dresses for girls around the planet who have never owned a dress.

The effort was part of a campaign called Dress a Girl Around the World, which is organized by Hope 4 Women International, which in turn is a division of Hope 4 Kids International. The flier for the program asks potential participants to “imagine a world where every little girl owned at least one dress.” And then it asks, “What if that dress were made by you?”

The program provided its first dresses to girls in Uganda in 2009. Today, nearly 20,000 dresses have been delivered, by hand, to girls in 36 countries around the world, including the United States. Groups of sewers have formed in 42 states in this country, as well as in Canada, Uganda, and Hong Kong.

No sewing experience is necessary. The dresses are simple, fashioned from pillowcases or one yard of fabric. But their impact is enormous, according to organizers, who cite pictures of girls smiling broadly when they first put on their new dresses. In addition to boosting the self-esteem of the children who wear them, the dresses may also help protect them from sex traffickers, who are looking for children without protectors.

On Saturday at the high school, 26 dresses were completed, and several sewers took dresses in progress home to finish. To find out more about the local effort, call Ann Maley at 508-274-5586, or email

For more information about the Dress A Girl Around the World campaign (including directions for making dresses) or Hope 4 Women International, visit