Under the banner “Rags to Riches,” Barbara Evans, 69, converts old sheets and pillow cases into new clothes for children, then donates them to the needy.
“It started three years back, when I read a story about a 99-year-old American woman who sewed dresses to donate to the poor,” said Evans, who now has more than 4,000 followers on Facebook.
“I thought if at the age 99 this lady can use her skills and do the most purposeful things, why not me? On Facebook I asked for old, discarded blankets or fabrics, and the rest is history.” Evans, who said all her charity work is by word of mouth, is supported by 25 ladies who help her stitch.
“We work like a group of friends. I have one Facebook page that I keep updating with amazing photos and news about assistance I’m receiving from family, friends and even strangers,” she said.
“Dubai is such a beautiful place, with so many kind-hearted angels around you. I get donations in the form of fabric, and people approach me who need clothes for donating in their home countries or other places.”
In the last three years, Evans has dispatched more than 5,000 garments to children in more than 23 countries. She stitches eight to 10 dresses per day.
“I don’t feel tired. The thought that these dresses will make so many children happy takes away all my fatigue. If I can be of help to someone it makes me happy, and I’m paid by smiles,” she said. Besides fabrics and accessories, she funds the rest herself.
Evans recently started making sanitary kits for young girls in India. “Sanitary kits for young girls are very much in demand,” she said.
“We’ve already distributed hundreds of them to different countries. Now we’re sending them to India.”
Evans has started giving basic sewing training to refugee mothers. “Recently I went to Gaziantep in Turkey, near the border with Syria, where myself and six other experienced ladies taught 30 Syrian (refugee) mothers to make clothes, bags and baby quilts.”
Her friend Dana, a Syrian resident in Dubai who organized the journey, said Evans and other Dubai-based women organized a three-day sewing workshop where they taught 30 Syrian mothers how to stitch so they can sustain themselves and support their children.
“We also gifted sewing machines to these mothers, who lost their earning family members during the war,” said Dana.
“We want to empower these mothers to support themselves and their children. Teaching them skills is the most sustainable support.”
Evans said: “We also did a refugee children’s fashion show where women showcased their products. It was a lovely experience. I want to go there again.”