PHS students join ‘Little Dresses for Africa’ program

Argen Duncan

Putting their skills to work for someone else, Portales High School clothing design students are making dresses for impoverished girls.

Each of the 30 students in Laura Adkins’ “Clothing and Costume Design” class is making a dress for the Little Dresses for Africa program.

“I hope that they get out (of the project) that they can use their new-learned skill for others and learning to sew can be a gift,” Adkins said. “Because it takes so much time, it can be a bigger gift than if you just go and buy something. They put their heart and soul into it.”

She said the students also learned teamwork, new sewing techniques and how to turn scraps of cloth into something useful.

Adkins saw a segment about Little Dresses for Africa on the news television show “Nightline,” investigated and brought the idea to her students, who wanted to help.

Freshman Yasmin Gallegos said she wanted to sew a dress to make children who didn’t have enough happy. Her classmate Amanda Sanchez said she was interested in the project because she liked sewing and wanted the recipient girls to have something nice.

The students have been sewing the dresses since spring break and expect to mail the finished products off next week.

Freshman Marle Exiga said the work was frustrating and difficult to understand.

“I learned that it takes a lot of focus to do this, a lot of time,” she said.

However, she, Gallegos and Sanchez agreed the effort was worth it.

“I think it would be once we see the smiles on the faces of the kids getting the dresses,” Exiga said.

Sanchez also said it was fun learning how to make the dresses.

Adkins modified the dress pattern Little Dresses for Africa provided to be less complicated, and the students worked for about 40 minutes each weekday. Adkins demonstrated techniques for a few students, who then taught others, she said.

A local quilter had donated a box of large cloth scraps, which Adkins saw were just right for the dresses.

Little Dresses for Africa began with a woman’s effort to make and distribute dresses in Africa, Adkins said. According to its website, the program has given away dresses in 26 African countries, the U.S. and several nations in crisis.

“And the whole purpose of it is to let the African girls know they’re worthy, they’re special, they deserve something nice,” Adkins said.

The program has expanded to include pants for boys, and Adkins said her class might make shorts next year.