Friday, January 22, 2010

Volunteering and Offering Hope

If you have a pillowcase, minimal sewing skills, bias tape, and elastic, you can volunteer to make a dress. Or as a carpenter said about his seamstress wife, “She’s building a dress?”

As we’ve seen through the recent tragedy in Haiti, volunteerism is the motor that runs many aid agencies. Two days ago, school girls in the United States made dresses for displaced girls in Haiti, and they made them from pillowcases. Hope 4 Kids International will soon send the dresses to rubble strewn Haiti and offer a glimmer of optimism.

Volunteers at Hope 4 Kids International seek to furnish every girl in underprivileged nations with a dress. Across the United States, pillowcases are sewn into sun dresses. In a tailoring school in Ugandi, parent organization, Hope 4 Women International, furnished pillowcases and instructions so that local women could make the simple dresses and also teach the teens in the area.

By also furnishing treadle sewing machines to women in remote villages, they can then make dresses for their daughters even when electricity is not available. Interested? Patterns and step-by-step video instructions can be found at

In this country, 44 percent of adults volunteer, that’s 83.9 million workers. The Independent Sector Survey, sponsored by MetLife Foundation, measures the generosity of Americans based on giving monies and volunteer hours. A recent survey found that 89 percent of households give an average of $1,620 per year. Their volunteer hours represent the equivalent of over 9 million full time wage-earners, a value of 239 billion dollars.

Another program, Retired Senior and Volunteer Program (RSVP), helps people over the age of 55 find meaningful volunteer work in their communities. They state, “Anyone willing to lend their skills to make a difference is welcome to join RSVP and receive its referral services and benefits.” RSVP has nearly 500,000 volunteers across the nation who help adults learn to read, deliver meals to the homebound elderly, and assist in disaster preparedness and response.

In addition, many retired persons volunteer at non-profit groups, who benefit from the life-learned and work-related skills of retired seniors. RSVP volunteers work in libraries, community centers, schools, law enforcement agencies, parks, and hospitals. Marge Wright, whose volunteer work was spotlighted in the regional RSVP newsletter, trained to become a mentor to juveniles who are at risk of incarceration. She listens carefully to the young man she is mentoring and finds ways to connect through his interests.

Ms. Wright collects “relevant newspaper and magazine articles” about his sports and entertainment heroes and then uses those to help him “increase his reading and reading comprehension skills.” Also, she watches for opportunities to address appropriate and inappropriate behavior, and that type of conversation is easy when conversing about current events.

One of RSVP projects is our non profit Friendship Center, meeting the needs of Senior Adults throughout Montgomery County. Volunteers are needed to assist with the Meals on Wheels program. Contact Nicki Wright at Gulf Coast RSVP if you can help with this project or others.

Jesus poured out his life to those he only spent moments with or those who traveled with him three years. He summed up his entire mission when he said, “[T]he Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give himself as ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). And Jesus words, “It is better to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35) are a much repeated truism, over 2,000 years later. Jesus not only gave his life on the cross, but he laid down his life for others every day.

Christ-follower vol;unteers, whether you are “building” pillowcase dresses, building wooden trusses for a home, or building sandwiches at a homeless shelter, you are in good company. Jesus said, “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20).

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Cathy for your encouragement on dress a girl around the world. I cannot tell you how moving it is to see the faces of these girls when they realize someone whom they have never met cared enough to make the only new dress they have ever owned. It brings such dignity in worlds where girls are regarded as having no voice or value.

    Making these dresses seems to be such a simple act--but to the girls receiving them--it's priceless.