SHARE
Stitched up . . . Waimate woman Gael Grigg with the tools of her trade. PHOTO: TYSON YOUNG

For the past three years, Gael Grigg has used her sewing machine to change the lives of children around the world.

The Waimate seamstress is part of the Dress A Girl Around The World organisation, which makes dresses and underwear for young girls living in poverty.

After learning about the organisation from her daughter, Mrs Grigg was inspired to carry out its work in New Zealand.

Human trafficking rings were often present in countries where girls were most at risk, she said.

“If they’re decently clothed and have got underwear, they’re less vulnerable for traffickers.”

It was important they were made from 100% cotton, she said.

The cotton prevented the dresses from being too revealing, and the material could withstand the harshness of any environment.

“We have to make sure the fabric isn’t see-through,” she said.

Many of the dresses from New Zealand went to children living in Fiji, Uganda, Brazil, Cambodia, Vanuatu and Vietnam.

For many girls receiving dresses, it would be the first and only time in their life they would receive a new garment.

All work made in New Zealand went to ambassador Karen Wilson, in Invercargill, who would send off the clothes, Mrs Grigg said.

Ministries, missionaries and humanitarian teams often collected the dresses on their travels and personally delivered them to the girls.

Occasionally, photos of the children wearing the dresses were sent back to the dressmakers.

Mrs Grigg was keen to find other people in the area who wanted to make a difference.

“If there are people around with skills and time to give, I’d like to find those people.”

The motto for the Dress A Girl Around The World organisation is “every girl needs one dress”, although clothes for boys are also sewn.

More than 600 dresses from New Zealand have been donated to children across the world.

Mrs Grigg is no stranger to volunteer work.

When she is not working on clothes for girls overseas, she does volunteer work for other organisations including Operation Cover Up and Plunket.

“I’ve always been involved in community stuff,” she said.

Mrs Grigg said she planned to continue her work for many more years to come.