A Bellevue native is sewing up something special for Kenya.
Michelle Campbell, a 1996 graduate of Bellevue West, started the Pillowcase Project. The group collects pillowcases and sewing supplies to make dresses for young orphan girls in rural western Kenya.
Campbell is a flight attendant and now lives in California.
Christine Lytle, a sales associate at NP Dodge Real Estate, saw Campbell's Facebook postings and decided to help her.
NP Dodge has a collection box through Monday for new and gently used pillowcases and sewing supplies. The box is at the firm's Sarpy County location at 48th Street and Nebraska Highway 370. Drop-offs also will be accepted at other area NP Dodge offices.
Another collection box is at Eppley Airfield, which is fitting because the project started with a group of flight attendants.
Campbell has been doing relief work for 10 years, including spending time in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake and in Kenya, which is where her focus remains.
It was on a trip to Kenya that a fellow flight attendant told her about pillowcase dresses.
“I didn't know it could be a nonprofit,” she said of the beginning stages. “I was just doing this as a project.”
After about a month, Campbell said the project had “grown like wildfire.” Its Facebook group page has grown from nine members to more than 600 in less than a month.
“People are starting to see this vision,” Campbell said. “That's exciting.”
Her goal is to collect 1,600 pillowcases to take to Kipingi Village in western Kenya. Along with taking pre-made dresses, Campbell plans to teach the Kenyan women to sew dresses themselves.
A team of 16 is heading to the village in September to take the first round of supplies and to begin building a workshop where the sewing lessons and eventually the business will be. Similar groups will keep going to the village every three months until the women can independently sell the dresses.
The ultimate goal is for the dresses to be sold worldwide.
“We are going to empower them,” Campbell said.
For more information on the effort, click here, or call Lytle at 402-880-0485.