Local nonprofits think globally, make major impacts

“If the global nonprofit sector were a country, it would have the sixteenth largest economy in the world, according to GDP data compiled by the World Bank,” the National Council for Nonprofits states on their website.

Nonprofits serve our communities in a multitude of ways every day. Local libraries provide access to a wealth of knowledge for free. Local pet shelters strive to keep animals in our communities safe and healthy and, often, help us find a new friend in the form of a family pet.

Nonprofit organizations help to clothe, feed and house the most vulnerable in our communities. Some local nonprofits though, are working to make a more global impact.

One such nonprofit that has made an impact in the local community and globally is Dress a Girl Around the World (Dress a Girl).

According to their website, “Dress a Girl Around the World is a Campaign under Hope 4 Women International” a non-profit that has been in business since 2006. The organization has a nondenominational Christian affiliation but is independent of any religious organization.

Renita Yahara, owner of E-town Sewing Studio, learned about Dress a Girl four years ago when she received a large donation of fabric at her studio. She researched “charitable sewing” on the internet, and after some time came across Dress a Girl.

Yahara and volunteers are able to create dresses with donated fabric and rick rack.

“I love sewing for ages about 18 months to about ten [years old],” Yahara said.

With her love for sewing for children and her want to sew in a way that helped a charity, Yahara knew that she could fill a need working with Dress a Girl.

Dress a Girl provides dresses for vulnerable, young girls in developing nations around the world. All dresses have a label associated with the organization as a kind of protection against human traffickers.

“What I am told is that [traffickers] think twice if they see a child that is being cared for, they see the child and say ‘Oh, this child is being cared for by an organization,’” Yahara stated regarding the importance of including the label on all dresses.

Yahara first opened her shop to volunteers with the expectation that they would meet occasionally to make dresses, but local interest was much larger than she expected. Volunteers meet every Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the E-Town Sewing Studio. Community members are welcome to join, even if they have no sewing experience.

In the last four years, Yahara and volunteers have made and distributed over 3500 dresses. They also make and send dolls, of which they’ve made over 2000.

Yahara says she has seen her work with Dress a Girl make a local and global impact.

In addition to dresses, volunteers also make dolls for girls worldwide.

“I got a letter from a missionary that said the dresses were a gateway to get into the communities with the love of God,” Yahara said.

Locally, Yahara has seen the community come together to support Dress a Girl through donations of fabric, rick rack (a zigzag trim used for decoration on dresses) and money to support the creation of dresses and dolls. Additionally, local missionaries and nonprofit organizations have distributed dresses all over the world.

One such nonprofit, and another local organization making a global impact, is Brittany’s Hope.

Founded in 2000, Brittany’s Hope is a nonprofit organization that works to support families who choose to adopt special needs children worldwide through monetary grants. They also work with sponsors to financially and emotionally support children and families around the world.

Brittany’s Hope has been helping children and families globally for over 19 years.

The organization is not an adoption agency but does work closely with agencies in order to assure that families who are willing to adopt special needs children have the resources and support they need.

Created by Candace Abel, the organization stands in memory of her adopted daughter Brittany who was killed in a car accident during her senior year of college.

In the last 19 years, the organization has been able to assist in the adoption of over 1200 children and has given humanitarian aid to over 3000 children and families.

Mai-Lynn Sahd was also adopted into the Abel family as a child and now runs Brittany’s Hope as the executive director.

Sahd said that the organization fills a need as there are not many organizations that offer resources and support for families looking to adopt special needs children internationally.

“These are the children that are stuck, that are left behind…,” Sahd said. “Our grants are not just to help families, but to help shed light on that child.”

According to Sahd, due to policy changes and societal trends, international adoption has decreased significantly in the past five years. While some criticism surrounding international adoption calls attention to the fact that human trafficking can often be linked to this kind of adoption, Sahd says that Brittany’s Hope recognizes these issues and has formed their actions around that.

“We realize adoption should not be the only solution,” Sahd said regarding the issue of international adoption causing an increase in human trafficking.

The organization’s commitment to create sponsorships and connections between local families and international children and families helps to support these children and further prevent trafficking.

Elizabethtown College students can get involved with Brittany’s Hope through every-other-year May service trips to Vietnam. During these trips, students and faculty can help carry out the benefits of sponsorships in supporting local orphans and at-risk families.

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