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Sandy Journal

Sandy Girl Scouts sew new dresses for girls in Ethiopia

Mar 02, 2020 12:17PM ● By Heather Lawrence

Girl Scouts from Sandy’s troop #363 met weekly to sew 150 dresses for an orphanage in Ethiopia. (Photo courtesy Becky Matzke)

By Heather Lawrence | [email protected]

Last June, Girl Scout Troop #363 in Sandy was inspired by a TED Talk they found online. “It was about girls in Ethiopia who live in an orphanage, and had never had a new dress of their own. They wear hand-me-downs from their moms or dads. I thought about all the clothes I had, and it made me feel greedy,” said 11-year-old Morgan. 

The Cadettes were looking for a project to earn their Silver Award, one of the highest in Girl Scouts. The award requires a minimum of 50 hours on a service project. So Hannah, Morgan, Sydney, Alexis, Shelby and Sophie of Troop #363 decided to do a project that would help the girls in the orphanage.  

“I felt like I needed to do whatever I could to help those girls,” Morgan said. They wanted to make dresses and hygiene products for the orphanage. But first, they had to learn to sew.  

“Five of the six girls had basic sewing knowledge. We started with small projects: scrunchies and a tote bag. Then we found a dress pattern, and each girl committed to sew 25 dresses each,” said Becky Matzke, the troop’s leader. 

“I felt like I was taking a step toward not thinking about just my life. If you were in a situation where you needed help, you would want people to help you,” Hannah said. 

Matzke’s friend was planning a humanitarian trip to Ethiopia in April, so she arranged to have the friend take the dresses. “But the plans changed, and my friend was going in March. We lost a month of work time, so we had to work even faster,” Matzke said. 

The girls met every Wednesday for their troop meeting, and met again on Sundays to sew. Sophie discovered she enjoys sewing, and got her own machine for Christmas. “It was hard learning to read a pattern and all the terminology of sewing. The first dress I made took two hours. Now I can make one in about 40 minutes,” Sophie said. 

The girls collected donations of fabric and money, and even used some of their own money to buy supplies. 

“I personally created my dresses so no two were the same. I chose fabrics that I would wear and be proud of. I hope to help the girls feel beautiful, and have a piece of clothing crafted from the heart,” Sophie said. 

Morgan is left-handed and said most sewing implements are made for right-handed people, so just sewing a straight stitch was a challenge. “And I hate pinning!” Morgan said. 

Evelyn, Shelby’s mom, was a big help to the girls. She was still pressing dresses while we met and talked. “It’s a good learning experience for both of us. I’m teaching her something, she’s teaching me something, too. The girls start looking outside their box,” Evelyn said. 

In November, Matzke will travel to Ethiopia with a nonprofit and deliver more supplies. She said this is a dream she’s had since she was the girls’ age. “We’re sewing bags for washable feminine hygiene supplies. I’ll be there for 11 days teaching the girls how to use and clean them. I am so excited.”

Matzke said that in the village she’s traveling to, girls must stay home from school during their periods because they don’t have hygiene products. The supplies will help the girls not miss school. 

“It was very relatable to the troop members because they are the same age. They asked good questions, and there was a lot of deep thinking going on,” Matzke said. 

“Our project sounds simple, but we hope it will make a big difference,” Shelby said. Alexis felt the same way. “I realized how fortunate we are and the luxuries we take for granted. As a group of Girl Scouts we can make a difference in this world, even if it’s just to a couple of people.”