In the Philippines natural disasters are an all too common occurrence. One of the deadliest in recent years was Typhoon Haiyan which killed 6,300 people. When Justine Somani heard about orphans in the Philippines who were left homeless and alone after the typhoon, she had to take action. Justine is a parent education teacher at Family Partnership, one of Maryland Family Network’s 26 Family Support Centers.
“I couldn’t sleep,” Justine remembers.
That’s when she got the idea to make dresses for orphaned Filipino girls as a way to help people both at home and abroad.
“This just fit,” Justine says. “Many of the students at Family Partnership struggle with depression. Doing good things for others has been proven to change moods and attitudes. It builds self-esteem.”
She was determined to get all of her students involved regardless of experience.
“Everyone in this classroom has worked on some part of the dresses. Whether it’s measuring or ironing, they got to pick what they wanted to do. We encouraged them to try different things.”
The dress project has changed the students. It has given them confidence and also taught valuable skills.
“Some of the quietest students we’ve had have risen up as leaders. And they realize, ‘Hey this is easy. I can make a dress for my daughter!’”
When the clothes were finished everyone was thrilled. But it was the notion of the children in the Philippines wearing the dresses that really made an impact on the students. Justine described the reaction, “One of our parents, a big 20 year old young man, took off his glasses and cried.”