By Georgetta L. Morque

On several Saturdays last month, 13 Rye High School students spent their afternoon at Rye Recreation ironing and sewing, hardly a typical pastime for teen-agers. Yet they were there for a special community service project to transform pillowcases into dresses for girls in a Kenyan orphanage. As a result, they learned that sewing can be fun and useful and that their end product would benefit those in dire need through Kenya Relief.

Leading the group was Kim Mulcahy, a Rye mom and founder of Sew Happy, who has been teaching sewing in town and beyond for the past five years. Mulcahy discovered Little Dresses for Africa, an organization that encourages volunteers to make dresses out of pillowcases for needy girls. She mentioned this as a community service idea to Paula Fung, who helped get the ball rolling.

An initial post on Rye Moms Facebook prompted a response from Nadine Waxenberg, who connected the pair to her former high school cheerleading teammate, Devry Coghlan, a missionary at Kenya Relief which houses 98 orphans — 49 girls and 49 boys — who typically arrive with shredded clothes on their backs and little more.

Around 70 pillowcases were donated to the cause and Rye Recreation donated the space for the project. Fung started the group off with a tie-dying session and Mulcahy taught the sewing portion with several volunteers. Most of the students were sewing newbies, except for a few who were fortunate to learn the skill from a grandmother. Cailee Forman, who made a pale pink and light blue dress with blue ribbons, never sewed before but said once you learn it’s really fun. “It gets better and better as you do it,” agreed Becca Kaplan.

“These kids having a heart for kids hurting on the other side of the world is not only filling a need but filling their compassionate souls as well,” said Coughlin, who will send photos of the girls in the dresses to share with the students. A total of 51 dresses will go to the orphanage along with 50 caps donated by children at American Yacht Club. The next potential project will be shorts for boys to be made from T-shirts. Stay tuned.