- Associated Press - Sunday, March 19, 2017

ELKINS,W.Va. (AP) - More than 100 dresses made by the Elkins Sewing Center and local volunteers will be given to children living in African countries.

Bonnie Scalia, a volunteer inspired by the organization Dress a Girl Around the World, acquired a grant for dress materials to move forward. Scalia and other volunteers were granted access to the Elkins Sewing Center to create the dresses.

Ponny Bukenya, the founder of Healthcare Volunteer Uganda, visited Elkins this month to gain support and meet with Elkins Sewing Center owner Sue Pifer and Scalia.

Bukenya formed HVU in 2007 after volunteering as a clinic organizer in Uganda for years.

“There is a great need for volunteers,” Bukenya said. “I was asked if I would be willing to continue volunteering alone. That’s why I started the program.”

HVU offers a large variety of programs that focus on HIV-positive children as well as the children affected by HIV. The program provides children with healthcare, nutrition, education, clothing and more.

“Girls age 10 through 24 are taught a skill,” Bukenya said. “They learn sewing, baking and hairstyling. This makes the risk of contracting HIV less likely.”

Girls who learn a skill are able to practice their trade instead of engaging in risky behavior or becoming involved in prostitution.

“It is important to teach the children positive things so that they don’t have to be affected by HIV,” Bukenya said.

There are currently 509 children in the program and they are all learning new skills each week, he said.

HVU also has a ChildSponsorship Program which allows supporters to build a relationship with a child and watch them grow.

The goal of this program is to assist children in becoming leaders who will change their communities and inspire future generations.

Last year, the Elkins Sewing Center and volunteers started participating in helping HVU acquire dresses. The volunteers hope to continue their contributions to the cause for future years. Bukenya plans to visit Elkins again in the next couple years to encourage support. There were 10 women who volunteered their time in order to finish the dresses.

Also donated to HVU were 100 shirts and pairs of shorts for boys. Bukenya will be transporting the clothing back to Uganda to avoid shipping costs.

“If people would like to donate, it is better if they go online and give money.” Scalia said “The cost of shipping clothes that far away is not affordable.”

The volunteers and Elkins Sewing Center are happy and proud to be a partner with HVU.

For more information on Healthcare Volunteer Uganda, its child sponsorship program or to donate, visit www.hvuganda.com.


Information from: The Inter-Mountain, https://www.theintermountain.com

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