“A mother, a daughter, a needle and some thread”

Two incredible women, Kristina Alexander (who is one of our board members) and her mum, Sandra truly showed the love and commitment they have for each other and for the kids at Nkoaranga when they took on the challenge of hand-making 54 dresses for the girls at Nkoaranga orphangage!  This week, Kristina has taken the time to tell us about this fantastic achievement, and the support which made it possible.

As far back as I can remember, my mom has always been talented and could take a piece of fabric and, with the help of a needle, thread and her fantastic imagination, she would miraculously turn it into something beautiful.  So when I had the idea last Christmas to sew a few dresses for our girls at Nkoaranga orphanage, without hesitation she was on board.  At first we decided that we would sew about a dozen and then we decided, why stop there?  It wouldn’t be our typical mother daughter project if we didn’t out do ourselves, so we set our goal at 54.  Many people asked us why we were sewing 54 dresses and the answer was simple – it represents the 54 countries that make up the continent of Africa, one dress for every country.

Our first weekend we spent going through all her sewing boxes that were full of fabric she kept moving from house to house, or fabric that was passed on to her from her friends.  I always encouraged her to part with it but she always reminded me, “I may use it someday for something”.  The fabric consisted of pieces that were as old as I was!  In fact, my sisters and I had dresses made out of the same fabric when we were little girls.
Once all the fabric was washed and ready we began to cut the patterns out in a variety of sizes to make sure that every little girl had at least one that fit.
One weekend we decided we were going to have a sewing marathon – all day Saturday, and all day Sunday.  Saturday morning found us both sitting at the table in her sewing room, each working on our own machine and tackling our project one dress at a time.  While listening to music, being fed by my Dad, reminiscing and talking about the orphanage I began to realize that it wasn’t so much about working on a project together with my mom but it was about taking our talent and turning it into a message of love and creating little dresses that would in turn create giant smiles on the faces of the girls at Nkoaranga.  As each dress was finished my mom would spend her evenings sitting and hand sewing the snaps down the back, and adding her finishing touch: a label that reads “Handmade with love from your Granny in Canada.”  Just a gentle reminder that even though we are separated by thousands of km their Granny is always thinking about them.

Unlike the women that sew for a living in the local villages, we always had power, a meal and fresh water to quench our thirst.  We worked on fancy machines, but constantly reminded ourselves of the women who sew on old-fashioned machines as they rely on intermittent power to complete their work.  Remembering once again that we are truly blessed and in turn can bless those on the ground in Tanzania.
When I think back to last Christmas and the dresses we made, a few things come to mind.  I have an amazingly talented mom that has never hesitated to be a true example of love.  She possesses a caring and generous heart; not only for her own three daughters but to everyone she meets along the way, she is supportive of me and my work with The Small Things, and when faced with a challenge she is always open and willing to tackle it.

Kristina’s mum, Sandra, showing her undying support for
Kristina as she accepted her Associate of Arts Degree in
Psychology this year.

It really is true that it takes a village to raise a child, that some fabric, a needle and some thread woven together create something beautiful, and that “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”  ~ Mother Teresa
To finish, here are some pictures of our beautiful girls in their gorgeous dresses when they first received them…

And now, almost a year later? 
Still going strong! 
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