We’re a mother/daughter team who started sewing and sending sundresses and shorts to Haitian children through Mission to Haiti in 2010. We later expanded and have sent to Peru, Uganda, Ghana, Guatemala and India.
We recently stopped taking sundress and shorts donations and are instead focusing on finding and sending wedding gowns and formal dresses for Mdm. Bennison’s Bridal Rental Shop in Port au Prince, and on providing sewing supplies and cash donations toward the construction of a building for Atelier d’Aprentissage Specialise (a vocational sewing school in Beudet, Haiti.
The Daughter – Kim Harms
Kim – stay-at-home mom, freelance writer – A few years ago, I was compelled to wipe down and plug in my old hand-me-down sewing machine. After spending a morning with a college friend in the process of adopting three children, I knew God wanted me to do something. Her contagious passion and desire to love those who needed it most left me with a certainty that apathy is not an option when it comes to God’s call to love “the least of these.”
When I’m not doing 500 Dresses stuff, I’m either writing for a variety of magazines and devotionals or hanging out with my four favorite guys doing fun and sometimes crazy stuff like backpacking, cliff jumping into freezing cold Lake Superior, waterparking and watching action movies while eating the Harms family movie treat – homemade cookie dough and a big glass of milk. Yum!
The Mother – Jan Nelson
Jan, Seamstress Extraordinaire. A seamstress for more than 50 years, Jan is most at home in front of a sewing machine or playing with her grandkids. Since God blessed her with a no-frills daughter and, until recently, only male grandchildren, 500 Dresses gave her a chance to make cute little clothes with a purpose.
How It All Started
- After a coffee date with a college friend who was in the process of adopting three children from Africa, God wouldn’t leave me alone. Sewing kept coming to my mind, so I asked my seamstress mother if she would sew a few dresses with me to send to Haiti.
- We chose Mission to Haiti because it is an organization through whom I had gone on a mission trip in college, and our family has sponsored children from the country.
How It Blossomed
- People started asking how they could help us, so we decided to make it more than a one-time thing. Many people have donated dresses, shorts, fabric, elastic, buttons and money for shipping. We currently do 2 shipments per year and have sent more than 1500 items.
- We started making shorts because my son, Owen, thought the boys should get something too.
Following God’s Lead
- God has been teaching me that 500 Dresses is a little about sewing dresses and a lot about just doing the next thing he calls me to do.
- Those “next things” have included 3 trips to Haiti since 2013 to teach sewing classes at Atelier d’Aprentissage Specialise (a vocational sewing school in Beudet, Haiti, through and organization I love called Mission to Haiti.
Mission to Haiti
- About Mission to Haiti
- Mission to Haiti was started in 1981 by Bill and Ann Nealey. Child sponsorship quickly became the thrust of the organization.
- The Haitian government does not supply nearly enough schools for the number of children in the country, so churches have had a great opportunity to pick up the slack.
- Mission to Haiti supports 12 churches all of which house a Christian school. It is through contact with the pastors that needs of the students and community are assessed and met.
- Sponsored children receive one nutritious meal each school day.In addition to feeding the sponsored children, Mission to Haiti regularly does mass food distributions to the poor and hungry.
- For $20 beans and rice can be purchased to feed a family of five for a week
- Medical Treatment
Sponsored children receive care at Mission to Haiti’s on campus medical center.Mission to Haiti hopes to extend this service to all of the children in “sponsored” schools, and then reach out to other family members as well.
A Haitian doctor mans the clinic and medical and dental teams come from the US
- Vocational Training
There is a great need in Haiti for basic “trade” skills like sewing and construction.
Through the 500 Dresses connection, I was able to become a part of their first ever vocational training in 2013; a sewing class.
Mission to Haiti hopes to expand their vocational training in the future.
Isaiah 58: 6-12
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? 8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness[a] will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. 9Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, 10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday