Ada — Jan Long’s intermediate construction (sewing) class is showing compassion toward underprivileged children far away and learning some valuable career tools in the process.
Long, instructor in the Department of Family and Consumer Science at East Central University, is guiding her students in a project called “Dress a Girl Around the World,” in which the class, along with help from some volunteers, is creating dresses for girls around the world who are living in poverty. The mothers of the children say the dresses help protect their daughters from being taken and placed in the human trafficking trade.
The class has a goal of making 85 dresses by the first week of April.
“That is our goal, and I’m confident we’ll make it,” said Long. “In this class, our students learn to run a factory and learn how a production line works. At the same time, we’re doing a project which is benefiting someone else.”
Long learned about the project at a career technology conference in Oklahoma City in a presentation made by a high school teacher.
A critical component of the project is the label or patch sewn onto the front of the dresses. On this label are the words “Dress a Girl Around the World."
Comments from adult women in these developing countries are that these particular labels on the front of the dresses have stopped those involved in the slave trade from abducting the girls, according to Long. The label poses a sense of ownership to others, so the girls who wear these dresses are often avoided by the human traffickers.
Long plans to work on this project with her classes for the next few spring semesters.
“It’s important for women to help other women. We need to be sharing with developing countries,” Long said.
Allie Barton, a senior from Ada via Latta High School and a member of ECU’s Tigers Against Human Trafficking Club, says her group was just made aware of the project and plans to be helping in the coming days and years to come.
“This is really an awesome project from what I can tell. The patches on the dresses are so important, so these girls won’t be sold into slavery,” said Barton. “It’s a way we can help those that are trafficked around the world.”
Barton says her club plans to help in the remaining days with ironing the dresses or any other duties that are needed.
Lessa Estrada, a junior retail merchandising major from Seminole who is working on the project, appreciates the country she lives in and what she has been blessed with. Because of those blessings, her desire is to help others.
“I work two jobs, one during the week and the other on the weekend. Sometimes things get rough and sometimes you feel like you don’t have enough,” Estrada said. “But these girls don’t have anything. They depend on us. With the dresses and the little tag (label or patch), it makes them more secure and lets the men know (who are trying to abduct them) that they’re taken and belong to someone.”
Long says these dresses don’t replace the clothing these girls already have.
“It’s just an add-on to what they already have,” said Long.
Following spring break, the class will spend one more week on the project before sending them off to Hope 4 Women International, which is sponsoring “Dress a Girl Around the World." That group will distribute the dresses where needed around the world.
For more information, to make dresses in your area or to donate to the project contact Long at 580-559-5361 or via email at email@example.com.