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Sew much compassion: Notre Dame students stitch clothing for orphans halfway across the world

Updated: 2013-07-30T03:19:48Z

By JENNIFER BHARGAVA

Special to The Star

Sewing a dress involves more than needles and thread.

It also takes a little love.

At least that’s the message Cindy Steen passed on to her kids last week during her summer sewing class at Notre Dame de Sion lower school in midtown Kansas City.

Using fabric donated by students and staff, her summer school students spent hours organizing buttons, cutting patterns, measuring fabric, and carefully sewing dresses and shorts, which will be worn by orphaned children halfway across the world.

The garments will soon be donated to the non-profit organization, Little Dresses for Africa, which distributes handmade clothing to African orphans, as well as other needy children around the world.

“The dresses are easy to make, and the project really sends such a wonderful message to children,” Steen said. “It teaches sewing and compassion at the same time. It also shows them that using teamwork and small steps, we can come up with a really fantastic finished product.”

Surrounded by yards of pastel pink and neon green fabrics, her students took turns using the sewing machine and ironing some of the finished products.

Swirling around in her sparkly pink outfit, 7-year-old Cassidy Broderick couldn’t stop admiring one of the pastel pink Snoopy dresses she helped create.

“The dresses are all super cute,” the soon-to-be second grader said, with a bright smile. “I love them a lot. It makes me happy to know I’m helping the orphans and making a difference in the world.”

Her classmates agreed.

“Sewing is really easy and I’m having a lot of fun,” said Lilly Sutherlin, 7. “I feel sad for the orphans and I hope the clothes will make them happy.”

Steen was thrilled by how much her students enjoyed making the clothing. After all, she pointed out, the kids are having fun while learning valuable skills, such as math, teamwork and hand-and-eye coordination.

“The dresses came out darling,” she said. “The kids are doing such a great job. They’re learning real-life skills they will need for the rest of their lives.”

She is also pleased that the message behind the class correlates to Notre Dame de Sion’s overall vision, which is to encourage community service. Students at the school often donate their time to various charities, such as Harvesters, The Children’s Place and Relief for Haiti.

Now that the dresses are complete, Steen will send them to Little Dresses for Africa’s organizer in Wisconsin, who will then donate them to Africa, or wherever else they are needed.

“These kids worked so hard to make clothing they aren’t even going to wear,” she said. “That means a lot.”

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