A cause and a place that are both dear to my heart (having volunteered in Kenya myself) have been brought together in something globally responsive. The Pillowcase Project launched a special event just before Labor Day Weekend, at the Riveria 31 at the Sofitel Los Angeles and Hollywood came out to support raising awareness for this cause.
The Pillowcase Project, founded by Michelle Campbell, sets up sustainable programs in rural Kenya to empower women and educate children. Through the donation of gently used or new pillowcases, the cause creates beautifully designed dresses for children in rural villages while also educating them on how to be self-sustaining through making their own dresses to sell to support their families.
The Riveria 31 at the Sofitel Los Angeles was covered in stunning pillowcase dresses hung from above displaying unique colors, patterns, and designs. Guests of the event were able to sponsor a specific dress given a fun name which will be hand delivered to rural villages in Kenya later on this month. The guests will then later receive a personal photo of the girl wearing their sponsored dress(s).
Press Pass LA spoke with founder Michelle Campbell on her inspiration for creating such an impactful cause.
PPLA: What is your cause about?
MC: We set up sustainable projects in rural Western Kenya, mainly focusing on empowering women. What we are doing right now is taking gently used and new pillowcases and turning them into dresses for little girls that we will be delivering next month. And we are also delivering sewing kits to the women which we raised the funds for and will include everything they will need to teach them how to sew and sell their own dresses; creating their own micro business.
PPLA: What is this process going to be like in terms of creating these dresses by the masses?
MC: It’s going to be interesting. Honestly we are such the infancy stages right now. We are only three and a half months old. That it’s still a learning curve for us at this point. What I would like to see happen is have the dresses created in Kenya and we will be buying African fabric as well to give it some African flare. And we hope to sell those at boutiques in the United States.
PPLA: Tonight you are doing a special sponsorship program.
MC: Each dress is $25 and what we are doing is anyone who sponsors a dress will get a picture of the little girl who receives the dress. And also a picture of her in the dress.
PPLA: Where do you hope to see The Pillowcase Project go?
MC: What I would like to see in the next year is actually a couple of things. The dresses to be sold in boutiques across the United States, the ones that are made in Africa. And then that money can be kicked back into the village which is called Kipingi Village. I would also like to build a school there which will also serve as a community center for the women. The children currently do not have a school in that village.
PPLA: Where else do hope to spread in Kenya after Kipingi?
MC: I have actually been thinking about that for a bit. I don’t know how long it’s going to take to make the program sustainable in Kenya. Whether it’s going to be a year, two years, five years…we are not quite sure. The next place I am actually looking at is Ethiopia. And then branch out to Southeast Asia. We want to take it worldwide, we want to take it global into very rural areas.
PPLA: What was your motivation and inspiration to start The Pillowcase Project?
MC: It’s interesting. I was in this village a year ago and was really deeply moved and impacted by the conditions of this village and knew that I needed to do something. I also wanted to do something that was sustainable. I was talking with a girlfriend about pillowcase dresses and I thought, “wow we can turn this into a sustainable project where these women can actually create and sell the dresses.” What we are going to do is give them ownership of it and let them either sell the dresses in the marketplace to start out or if they want to get them sold in the United States. And then eventually have a woman in the village micromanage it.
PPLA: What was your inspiration for instilling entrepreneurship in this program?
MC: Well I’ve been doing this work for ten years and traveling all across the world. I’ve seen it firsthand that there are a lot of women out there who are just not empowered. They don’t have a voice. And this is something that will not only impact the orphans in the village—they don’t have an orphanage so the villagers take care of the orphans, but this will give the women an opportunity to also provide for those children in that village.
PPLA: You made a comment to me earlier about making an impact on the world. Can you tell me more about that?
MC: Everyday I ask myself, what is my legacy going to be? What legacy do I want to leave behind. And I believe that everyone of us has a story and we can all use that story to make a difference on the world. And leave a dent. And leave our mark on the world, how ever little it may be. Whether it’s in your own backyard or across the world. I mean everyone can do their part and I’m just an everyday, normal girl who really believes in making a difference and a little change.
PPLA: Besides expanding in the United States through boutiques and building schools in Kenya, is there anything else that you want to do to drastically change the conditions in East Africa?
MC: I really am a firm believer in education. For me in all of the traveling I’ve done over the years, I believe education is the most powerful tool you can give a child. In the United States and in a lot countries, it’s given. Whereas in a country like Kenya its a luxury. And I feel that education is the most important thing, I really do. And that’s why I would eventually like to build a school in the same village because we want to give the children a voice and we want them to think for themselves. And I also do feel that when a child has a chance to be educated, they are more likely to come back and help their community.
PPLA: Tell me about your personal story and how that connects with your personal passion for The Pillowcase Project?
MC: I was actually an orphan at the age of three. I was in several different foster homes. And then I was eventually adopted by a wonderful family. My dad was with the Air force and my mother was a Special Ed Teacher, which is where I think I got a lot of my compassion. I also have a sister, who is their biological daughter, who also does non-profit for a living. I knew once I got to a certain age that I wanted to be a voice for orphans and for children who didn’t have one and to pay it forward. Because I could take my story and let it affect my life or I could use my circumstances and use them to pay it forward, and to actually make a difference and an impact. Use it to do something positive, to do good with it. As well as speak to foster kids out there who may be in foster care, who might be orphans in a third world country…to really be voice for them.
PPLA: What would you like to leave us with?
MC: Be a good person in this world. The one thing about when I started this project is didn’t matter what religion people came from that wanted to be apart of it, or what walk of life they come from. I want this to be about being a good person while you walk this green earth. And make an impact. It doesn’t matter about anything from your background. It just doesn’t matter. We are all here for one good cause.
PPLA: And love is that universal language!
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