Grace Covenant delivers thousands of dresses to Haitian girls
by Staff Writer
At first, the Haitian girls only gave shy smiles. But they quickly warmed to the group who offered the dresses. In the midst of their tent cities and orphanages stood a sense of normalcy. A simple dress – an offer of kindness and love – from people they didn’t even know.
But when asked to choose between two or three of the colorful garments, the girls didn’t know how to choose.
“After all, they had never been given a choice before – when it came to clothes,” said Cornelius’ Grace Covenant Church’s director of women’s ministries, Cammie Wilson. “Then they would smile, then they would hug you and get really excited.”
Wilson and a group of 11 other Grace Covenant Church members hand-delivered more than 450 pillowcase dresses and pairs of underwear to children in both Port-a-Prince and Jérémie, Haiti last week. The tiny island nation is still reeling from the massive January 2010 earthquake that seemingly flattened some of the major cities.
The undergarments were a “huge hit,” Wilson said, because the children “were desperate for them.” Team members left an additional 150 dresses with two different orphanages.
Grace Covenant had planned the trip since this past spring with their “Little Dresses for Haiti” project. The Herald Weekly reported on the project in March, and the greater Lake Norman community quickly adopted the church’s effort as their own.
The goal of giving out the dresses is not only to clothe the children but also to protect them from sexual abuse. Agencies working in the island nation have told Wilson that girls in dresses are less likely to be sexually attacked because they appear to be cared for.
“It’s exciting to participate in a mission that involves ‘justice’ – as a little girl is being protected from a potential predator,” Wilson said.
Wilson’s goal was to collect 1,000 dresses to deliver to Haiti and to children in other needy countries over the next year.
By June, the church had already collected more than 2,000.
“It really has been overwhelming, the impact of this mission,” Wilson said. “I know that it is definitely God-ordained.”
When they gave out the dresses, church members offered to pray with the children.
The children were appreciative, Wilson said, and they never turned down prayer.
“They would bow their heads in sweet reverence and not (lift) them until we gave them the signal that we were done,” she said. “Prayer truly does break through language barriers.”
Team member Kelly Brown, of Lincolnton, said the trip was an eye-opening experience that made her thankful for what God has given her.
“It was very sad to see their bad living conditions,” she said. “Food is very scarce, and the people are all in survival mode. There’s no happy childhood, and it’s very heart wrenching.”
Besides delivering the dresses to children in schools, orphanages and tent cities, the Grace Covenant team presented the Gospel through drama and helped construct both a church and an orphanage.
“To bless these (people) with a new dress, a smile, kind words, a hug and words of blessing was an incredible honor,” Wilson said.
Grace Covenant Church has decided to continue its “Little Dresses for Haiti” project. The church is planning another Haiti trip and will also send dresses with other groups bound for the Atlantic island country.
President Jimmy Carter will deliver 200 dresses to the country through Habitat for Humanity in a few months. The church will also distribute dresses to girls in Nicaragua and South Africa through mission teams later this summer.
Want to help?
To help out or to find more information, email Cammie Wilson at CWilson@gracecovenant.org.