39 Little Dresses go to America

In 2013, we were onto a great thing.  Or, at least we thought we were until the simple matter of postage costs intervened. We conceived of the idea of bringing the community together to sew dresses from used pillowcases for the American-based Little Dresses for Africa charity.

Knockout Blow

We were up and running before we were knocked out by the cost of mailing the dresses to the charity’s headquarters in America (from where they are shipped to Africa).  We ultimately mailed two boxes containing 12 dresses each at over $50 a box before we began stockpiling the dresses in hopes of sourcing more economical transport.

Well, more economical transport finally arrived in the form of Wanda Ariano’s suitcase.  She, along with husband Mark, flew to Canada in late June 2015 with 39 Little Dresses in tow.

Before we tell the end of the tale, let’s take a few minutes and revisit our involvement in this most amazing of projects called Little Dresses for Africa.

The Beginning

Wanda and Claire Pendrigh Elliott got together in early April of 2013 to test drive the dressmaking which yielded promising results.

Step Two:  April Workshop 

Later in April, a group of nine was invited to Helen Seiver’s in Capel to see how the dressmaking would work with a larger group of participants.  Again, the results were encouraging.  Claire even made a video that beautifully captured the spirit of the workshop.  You can see it right here.

Media Interest

April workshop participants Billie Griffiths and Judith Zwickl were beautifully photographed and appeared on page 11 of the June 6, 2013 edition of the South Western Times.

Billie Griffiths and Judith Zwickl on page 11 of the June 6, 2013 edition of the South Western Times

Billie Griffiths and Judith Zwickl on page 11 of the June 6, 2013 edition of the South Western Times

Going Public

In collaboration with the Stirling Street Arts Centre, two public workshops were offered.  The first was in July (21 participants), and the second was in October (12 participants).  Here is a mosaic of snaps from the July workshop.

Warm Feedback

Twenty-four dresses were mailed in two shipments to the charity’s headquarters in America.  We received the following generous response to our first shipment:

“Thank you so much for the help with Little Dresses for Africa.  They are just beautiful and the article and inserts that you sent are so great.  What a classy job you did.  Thank you so much for your influence and for following through and with such class! The kids will love them and we are grateful!” (Rachel O’Neill, Little Dresses for Africa, Michigan, USA)

Popular Project

Little Dresses proved to be a contagious idea.  Not only were dresses being made at the Art Partners workshops, but participants continued to contribute to the cause.  We would be remiss if we didn’t mention Ann Simpson’s exceptional contribution of handcrafted creations!

We eventually had a collection of 39 more gorgeous dresses before the long-awaited transport solution arrived in the form of Wanda’s suitcase.

Getting to America in 2015

The 39 dresses were squeezed into a suitcase and taken to Toronto, Canada via Dubai.

Dresses being packed for travels to America. Photo by Carensa Watts

Dresses being packed for travels to America. Photo by Carensa Watts

In Canada, Louis Ariano (Wanda’s dad), a long-standing supporter of Art Partners and a master of packing and postage, boxed up the dresses.

The box was then mailed from a Canada Post outlet in London, Canada across the border to the organisation’s headquarters in Michigan, USA.

Mailing the box of 39 Little Dresses from Canada to the organisation's headquarters in America

Mailing the box of 39 Little Dresses from Canada to the organisation’s headquarters in America. Photo by Mark Sadowski

Generous Community Support

Little Dresses for Africa proved to be an amazing community project.  Our involvement was only curtailed by the cost of postage.

Special thanks to everyone who sewed, and who supported others to sew.  Thanks to Claire Pendrigh Elliott for enabling us to get started, and for pulling together the wonderful video.  Thanks to Helen Seiver and the Stirling Street Arts Centre for hosting the workshops, and to Louis Ariano for covering part of the postage for the 39 Little Dresses mailed in 2015.

Thanks also to Linda Evans and Robyn Harris who mobilized staff from the Critical Care Unit of Bunbury Regional Hospital to contribute to earlier postage costs.

And, thanks to photographer Carensa Watts for rehabilitating some of our file photos for this post.

Seeing Things Differently

Everyone who participated in this wonderful community project probably shares the same sentiment:  the humble pillowcase will never look the same again!

25 thoughts on “39 Little Dresses go to America

  1. Suki

    Why should the dresses travel from one end to the other end of the world, while the destination is right in the middle of the world.

    Reply
    1. Art Partners Post author

      Thanks Suki. It’s great to hear from you. Yes, it would be such a sensible thing to ship the dresses directly to Africa, wouldn’t it. However, the organisational oomph for the project is in the USA, and they have the capacity to ship large quantities of Little Dresses (at a much lower cost than traditional postage) to needed destinations in Africa. Thanks again for participating!

      Reply
    1. Art Partners Post author

      Thanks so much Rob. Yes, it was a fantastic project. It’s too bad that Australia Post does not provide postal subsidies for such amazing initiatives.

      Reply
  2. Billie June Griffiths

    Thanks. A great follow up story to keep all us busy people informed. I feel proud to have been involved in such a worthwhile project.
    Billie

    Reply
  3. Jo

    Well done Art Partners! Another fantastic initiative seamlessly co-ordinated from start to finish with just a little Australian Post hump in the middle. I too think there should be subsidies for NGO initiatives like this.

    Reply
    1. Art Partners Post author

      Great to hear from you Jo. And, yes, offering a postal subsidy for worthwhile initiatives like this seems like such a sensible way for Australia Post to sponsor. In any case, as least the dresses managed to get to their intermediate destination in America. Thanks again.

      Reply
    1. Art Partners Post author

      Hello Helen, and thanks again for hosting that initial workshop. It was a super project and we’ll just have to dream up something else, or find a more economical way to ship dresses across the sea!

      Reply
  4. Carensa

    Wow, what a journey the little dresses went on for such a good cause. Congratulations to all involved, such a great result 🙂

    Reply
  5. Louis Ariano

    What a wonderful thoughtful project which will touch the lives of many children. All the participants who were involved certainly deserve to be commended. It would be very fulfilling to see the smiles on the girls’ faces when they receive a very colorful dress.
    Thank you for allowing me to be involved in a very, very minor way.

    Blessings to all,

    Louis Ariano

    Reply
    1. Art Partners Post author

      Thanks Louis, and yes, it’s a great project even if we don’t continue to contribute. And, just for the record, you were the instigator having mailed us a newspaper clipping about Little Dresses for Africa from your local newspaper. It’s exciting that our involvement in the project has now come full circle. Blessings in return.

      Reply
  6. Rachel Alexander O'Neill

    As Founder and Director of Little Dresses for Africa, I can tell you that your dresses are right at the top for beauty and quality. We absolutely love them and are so glad that you’re part of our team. We are so proud to send these on your behalf. Because they are so nice and I don’t have to check them for quality, and because of your location, I am happy to provide addresses for you to send them to Africa directly. We also have a collection point in Australia now. Please see ‘contact us’ on the webpage and look under other countries for your country as well as others. Thanks again for an amazing donation. Love, Rachel O’Neill,
    http://www.littledressesforafrica.org

    Reply
    1. Art Partners Post author

      It’s great to hear from you Rachel. We appreciate you ongoing encouragement of our Little Dresses initiatives. Thanks for confirming the Australian collection point. That’s great news for us. We’re now thinking about an October workshop to mark the UN’s International Day of the Girl Child. We think that a dress-sewing bee would be ideal to acknowledge the passage of this important day! Love from Art Partners.

      Reply
  7. Apikara McQuillan

    I love the journey that the little dresses have taken from birthplace to destination and the many hands and lands that have helped to transport them to their new home, the connection is of kind heart and spirit, Apikara

    Reply
    1. Art Partners Post author

      Thanks Apikara! It’s been a wonderful journey indeed, and we hope you can join us for the next Little Dresses adventure which is looking like Sunday, October 11. Details to follow.

      Reply
  8. Patricia Logrippo

    Lovely project—and only a small part of the wonderful work that Art Partners do. Outstandingly, they link people with disability with professional artists—an experience that is often life-changing for both parties. I cried witnessing some of the stories.

    While Art Partners work from the heart, they back up their caring and partnerships with excellent management skills. Kudos also to their sponsors and supporters. A very solid organization that I wish we could duplicate here in Canada.

    Reply
    1. Art Partners Post author

      Hello Patricia. How wonderful to hear from you. Thank you for your generous endorsement of our work here in Western Australia. We hope you continue to follow our narrative from the other side of the world!

      Reply
  9. Pingback: A Love Letter to Girls of the World | Art Partners

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