Sacred Heart Helps Deliver Dresses for Girls in Resource-Poor Countries

News Story: September 12, 2018

child dresses on hangers Participants in Sacred Heart University’s Global Health Programs are working with the Southern Connecticut chapter of Dress A Girl to distribute dresses that volunteers are sewing for girls in disaster-stricken countries.

The University has planned global health programs to Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico and Guatemala this fall. Along with badly needed medical supplies and personnel, there will be hand-sewn dresses for girls that area volunteers are creating. In addition, Dress A Girl is hosting a “sew-a-thon” for the cause on Sept. 15 at Monroe Congregational Church, 34 Church St., Monroe, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sacred Heart professor Christina Gunther and Molly Higbie, assistant director of global health programs, will join the volunteers for lunch to share their experiences distributing dresses the group has produced in the past.

“There is a sense of joy in seeing girls’ faces light up when they receive their new dresses. They have experienced such hardships, and yet they still get so excited when they see these pretty, colorful dresses that someone far away made for them; they want to try them on right away. Their laughter as they model their new dresses is like music,” said Gunther, director of the University’s Global Health Programs and health science program.

“When we see pictures of the girls wearing their dresses, they’re beaming with pride. Volunteers may spend a couple of hours making a dress, but that bit of time has such incredible impact! As Dress a Girl has stated, ‘Every girl deserves a dress,’” Higbie said.

In addition to speaking with the volunteers, Gunther and Higbie also plan to bring several SHU students with them to share their experiences distributing dresses.

Liz Skarzynski, coordinator of the Sept. 15 sew-a-thon, said that Dress a Girl is a campaign of Hope 4 Women International that aims to bring dignity to women around the world. “We dream of a world in which every girl has at least one new dress. We want girls to know that they are worthy and respected, and that they are loved by God,” Skarzynski said.

Jamaica’s poverty rate has increased to 15.9 percent, according to a World Bank study. It is often viewed as a resort destination and not a location for distributing free health care and other aid. Guatemala has some of the worst poverty, malnutrition and maternal child death rates in the region as described by the World Bank. The locations visited in Haiti and Mexico by the SHU groups mirror the poverty levels and health inequities in Jamaica and Guatemala.

Those who want to participate in the sew-a-thon can call Skarzynski at 203-257-7174 or email her at She also is accepting donations of cotton fabric for dresses.

For more information about the Dress a Girl program, go to