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Hughes County 4-H’ers making a difference in Africa

CALVIN, Okla. – For many Oklahoma youth, Kenya is simply a spot on a map in Africa they may have learned about in geography class. But for 4-H Club members in Calvin, Oklahoma, it’s a place nearly 9,000 miles away from their small community in Hughes County in which they know their efforts are making a difference.

Thanks to a donation of about 100 pillow cases early this year, members of the Calvin 4-H Club are turning them into dresses and donating them to young girls at the Neema Children’s Home in Kisumu, Kenya.

Debbie Wilson, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension 4-H program assistant in Hughes County, said the club wasn’t sure what to do with all the pillow cases, so initially made laundry bags out of them.

“The laundry bags were easy to make, but the kids weren’t really learning sewing skills,” Wilson said. “I started asking other Extension people for ideas and Barbara Elkins sent me the pattern for these dresses. It was fairly easy, but still taught the skills I wanted them to learn.”

Now what should the 4-H’ers do with the dresses? Fortunately, club member Adryn Ingle knew just where the dresses should go. His family had gone on mission trips to Kenya and he was aware of the needs at the Neema Children’s Home.

“Our family went there on a mission trip last summer and I was able to take about 15 dresses with me that members of our club made,” said Ingle, who serves his club as vice president. “The little girls were so excited to wear them because they wear the same clothes about every day. They put them on over the clothes they were wearing. These dresses probably were the first brand new items of clothing they’d ever owned. I know how excited I am to get new clothes, and that’s something that happens on a regular basis. These children don’t experience that very often.”

Catarina Diaz, president of the Calvin 4-H Club, said she didn’t really know how to sew before the club started on this service project, but has improved her skills and now she can make a pillowcase dress in about 30 minutes.

“It really warms my heart to be part of this project,” Diaz said. “I’m a senior this year, but I really hope this goes on for a long time. We all feel a lot of pride for this project.”

Following his trip to Kenya last summer, Ingle said he got another idea for a 4-H service project. He’s now collecting new and gently used sporting equipment to donate to an orphanage while his family is on a medical mission trip to Nicaragua this coming January.

“I’ve seen kids trying to play sports with whatever they could find,” Ingle said. “We’ve donated soccer balls before, but I want to be able to donate equipment for different sports.”

Cheryl Newberry, Southeast District 4-H program specialist, said 4-H is a great avenue that can open up the world to club members.

“It’s exciting to see 4-H’ers reaching beyond their local club and county to serve others,” Newberry said. “It’s especially exciting to see a simple project like these dresses reaching across the world to help others in need. Service, no matter where it takes place, helps youth to see the world differently and appreciate what they have.”

Ingle and his family will return to Kenya next summer and he hopes to have at least 50 dresses ready to take and donate to the Neema Children’s Home.

Wilson said a countywide all-day workshop will take place this month to teach more 4-H’ers how to make the dresses.

“This is such a great project for our club,” Wilson said. “Not only do we get to support our members in their service projects, but also this allows us to support the Ingle family in their mission trips. This kind of outreach really makes a connection for our 4-H’ers between Calvin, Oklahoma and Kenya. It brings that distance a little bit closer. The Oklahoma 4-H Youth Development Program has always served as an avenue for learning and helping others. This project is proof of that.”

Anyone interested in donating pillow cases or sporting equipment can contact Wilson at debbie.wilson@okstate.edu.

 

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Trisha Gedon
Communications Specialist
Agricultural Communications Services
Oklahoma State University
136 Agriculture North
Stillwater, OK  74078
405-744-3625 (phone)
405-744-5739 (fax)
trisha.gedon@okstate.edu

Oklahoma State University - Stillwater, OK 74078
405.744.5000

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