Besides the basic need for clothing, Rachel told her friend, the dresses provide the girls they’re made for a level of protection from sex trafficking in some countries.
“We have been told by village pastors and leaders in some Ugandan villages than when a girl is wearing a ragged, torn dress, those who prey on children assume they have no one to take care of them, so they are an easy target,” Rachel told Colligan in an e-mail.
Colligan was moved to help and the Angels of Mercy board agreed.
“Making these dresses seems to be such a simple act, but to the girls receiving them, it’s priceless,” Colligan said.
She put a flier about the project in her church bulletin, inviting volunteers to a dress-sewing event at the church, St. Cecilia’s in Irondequoit, July 22. She also sent a short notice that was published in this newspaper.
“We had 150 women lined out the door,” Colligan said. “They couldn’t get in the parking lot ...
They brought sewing machines and fabric ... I tell you, the energy; all these women, a lot of whom didn’t know each other, were all there, shoulder to shoulder. It was like the loaves and the fishes (story from the Bible) — and they were thanking us.”
Many of the women — from Irondequoit but also from Avon, Churchville, Ontario, Geneseo and virtually every town in Monroe County — wanted to come back.
A second sewing event held July 27 again drew more than 100 women.
“It was magic,” Gugino said.
“Some of them had teams and some took dresses home to work on,” Colligan said.
Among the latter was Jeanne Lokar of Fairport, who later wrote Colligan: “I joined the amazing ‘sewing bee’ at St. Cecilia’s last week and, like so many others, got really caught up in the enthusiasm and joy of making the dresses for the girls abroad. What a wonderful and moving experience!” She and her friends ended up finishing more than a dozen dresses.
Each simple dress, most with shoulder ties or simply in a pullover style, has a pocket. Into each pocket goes what is called a prayer doll, also made from fabric.
“We had children — girls and boys — from age 7 on up helping with the dolls; they love
making them,” Gugino said. “This project has really created a family ... It’s a family doing God’s work.”
“The women just come and give ... it’s like a piece of tapestry woven by God’s mercy, grace and love,” Colligan said.