About the Film
Little Dresses for Africa is a non-profit founded in Michigan in 2008 for the purpose of distributing dresses sewn by volunteers to vulnerable young girls in the Developing World. About 3.5 million dresses have been sewn and donated by volunteers from every state in the U.S. and 31 countries abroad. LDFA has a distribution center in Malawi, where more than half the population lives below the poverty line and half of its one million orphans have lost one or both parents to AIDS.
These little dresses are "ambassadors of hope" for other essential on-the-ground activities integral to LDFA’s mission, including employing villagers to help build primary schools and dig wells – efforts that support the foundation of that community and the local economy.
Rachel O’Neill is LDFA’s passionate and visionary founder. She says that “by sewing together there’s a sense of community that is established by making these dresses...it’s like the quilting circle of the old days.”
Lillian Weber is a frail yet feisty 100-year-old woman who uses a walker but still lives alone in the farmhouse in Bettendorf, Iowa where she raised her four children. Her physical decline in the twilight of her life means that she can no longer tend a garden, but she has always enjoyed sewing since her Mom first taught her at age 8. In 2011 Lillian’s son told her about Little Dresses for Africa. And thus she found her mission, endeavoring to sew a new dress every day, with the lofty goal of sewing 1,000 dresses by her 100th birthday. She sews a new dress from scratch almost every day (except when she goes to church) – an intricate 3-hour process.
By telling Lillian Weber’s story, THE LITTLE DRESS gives voice to an older generation of women volunteers at a time when many of them feel that they don’t count. The film also reveals the impact of LDFA’s mission in the Developing World and the transformative effect on its own volunteers who travel abroad on their own dime. As O’Neill says “We give our volunteers a feeling that they’re important and that they matter. We’re changing lives here and across the ocean.”
Ultimately THE LITTLE DRESS is a narrative about female solidarity: it’s about one woman’s vision, one amazing volunteer in the twilight of her life, one beautiful homemade dress, and the little girl who receives it to help her on her life’s journey.