Christmas in South Africa

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Last year I spent Christmas in South Africa with my husband and two sons. We enjoyed the beautiful people and equally beautiful weather as we traveled for two weeks across the country from Johannesburg to Durban and Cape Town before spending five days on safari at Kruger National Park.

In South Africa, the day after Christmas is designated the Day of Goodwill. Celebrated on December 26th each year, the Day of Goodwill is meant to be a day for giving -- especially to the less fortunate.

My family and I had the opportunity to celebrate the Day of Goodwill with several hundred girls (and boys) in Kliptown, the oldest residential district of the formerly black township of Soweto in Gauteng, South Africa. Just outside Johannesburg, this little shanty town was far from our reality back here in the States.

Immediately upon arrival, we got a first-hand look at the township's experience of severe poverty as we went door to door visiting families of three or more persons packed into one-room tin houses (with no indoor plumbing, might I add). And, the only classroom for this 10,000+ resident community only accommodates up to 50 students per term.

We spent the balance of our day distributing gifts to little girls orphaned by AIDS before distributing over 1,300 pillowcase dresses to girls at Kliptown  Youth Center, a community center recognized a month earlier as part of the 2012 CNN Heroes

What began as a service learning project for girls enrolled in my charity's mentoring program became the catalyst for a life-altering experience for my entire family.

Following the example of Rachel O'Neil, we planned to transform 100 ordinary pillowcases into 'little dresses for Africa' when we started the project on Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday in January 2012. Our intent was to place those dresses in a brown cardboard box and ship them to Rachel and her team for delivery on their next trip abroad. But, little did we know that was just the beginning.

With the help of seamstresses and everyday women -- with their daughters at their side -- this project has continued to grow.

Women like Sharon from Portland, Oregon who collected pillowcases and notions for months before traveling to Dallas to sew with us at the second annual MLK, Jr. Day sewing event in 2013. Others like Dalma Alicea who motivated her co-workers at JC Penney to sew 200 dresses from scratch and collected even more from a local church group. And, unforgettable women like Marvaleign, a 75-year-old woman who sews runway-ready dresses as therapy for dealing with the loss of her husband's memory due to Alzheimer's disease.

Because of these women and girls I now celebrate the Day of Goodwill every single day of my life! And, I will forever be indebted to them for the remarkable difference it has made.

#MerryChristmas

Dr. Kim

Dr. Kimberly S. Clay, aka Dr. Kim, is Executive Director and founder of Dallas-based charity, Play Like A Girl!®. On a mission to inspire women and girls across the globe to live a happy, healthy and active lifestyle, Dr. Kim has set out to finally triumph in her own struggle with obesity by creating what she calls her "best me yet" in 2014-15. Sisterbration is the space she has dedicated to documenting the journey and her musings.

1 Comment

  1. Hope M. Lawrence

    3 February, 2014 at 10:34 pm

    Love the blog post about your trip to Africa for Christmas last year. What an inspirational and motivational article. The dresses that were made for the girls were such a marvelous and creative way to give back. Can’t wait to see what is in store for Sisterbration this year.

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