Brides vow to give up dresses for Africa fund

IT IS the most important purchase of any bride – but is destined to never be seen again after the big day.

Now a group of Lothian brides have decided to give their prized gowns a new lease of life and send them thousands of miles away to Africa.

Around 20 have signed up to donate their dresses to help Ugandan brides-to-be – many of whom are already married but are only now able to stage a proper ceremony because of the civil war which has ravaged the country.

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After reading a story about the plight of Ugandan women living in refugee camps, which included an appeal from English-based charity Jireh Women, mother-of-three Janice Jack decided to help.

Mrs Jack, 41, who lives in Barnton, said: "A wedding shop has already been set up in Pader, northern Uganda, and the dresses get used over and over again.

"It's just so amazing; before, the women wore jeans and a top on their wedding day, so for them to have a wedding dress is really special. I think it's given the women self-worth and built their esteem back up.

"I asked around 20 of my friends if they would be willing to give their wedding dresses away and they said they would. They had to think about it and it was a hard decision. My sister and I had scoured the whole country looking for the right dress!

"But I just thought, 'this is something that's lying in my wardrobe that could actually help these women'. My friends thought if we could do something like that to help it would be amazing."

Mrs Jack, a full-time mum, added: "I was blown away by their response. It's not like just asking someone to put 20 in an envelope to help a charity, it's something that's very sentimental and probably one of the most expensive things you've bought, so it's a big ask. It's going forever – it's not even as if it's a loan."

Mrs Jack and her friends will, via the charity, send the wedding dresses – some of which cost more than 1,000 – to the new wedding shops planned for Kitgum and Kampala.

Mrs Jack said: "We want to make the women realise that even though they're on the other side of the world, we do care about them.

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"The rebels that went into their villages during the civil war killed their husbands and fathers, and took them as their partners.

"The devastation caused in these girls' lives is the main reason why we want to send them our dresses, not just because it is a poor country. It's really to say 'you deserve better'. A wedding day is a new start for them."

Mrs Jack and her friends – most of whom are members of Barnton Baptist Church – plan to wear their dresses one final time before they say their goodbyes.

She added: "I said to the girls we will have a night in with our dresses – if we can fit into them!

"I think I will miss the emotional attachment to the dress, rather than the dress itself, but the joy that they will bring to these women will far outweigh that."

If you would like to donate your dress, contact [email protected] or 01257 266155.