Volunteering -Suzanne Eisler (second from left) with some of the volunteers that help with the Little Dresses project that she started 10 years ago. Pictured (l-r) are Valerie Van Dresar, Suzanne Eisler, Ann Hart, Leona Birnie, Marion Husband, Helen Hutchinson, Ingrid Hansen, Donna Petterson, Carol Howard.

The Saskatchewan Volunteer Medal was established by the Government of Saskatchewan in 1995, on the occasion of the province’s 90th anniversary, to recognize the important role that volunteers play within our communities. Since it was established, this medal has been presented to 261 individuals in this province.
On Monday March 21, Lieutenant Governor Russ Mirasty announced the recipients of the 2023 Saskatchewan Volunteer Medal. Lieutenant Governor Russ Mirasty will present recipients with this medal on April 16, 2024, at a ceremony held in their honour at Government House in Regina during National Volunteer Week.
One of the ten individuals receiving the 2023 Saskatchewan Volunteer Medal is Suzanne Eisler of Wawota. Eisler is being recognized for creating a Little Dresses for Africa volunteer group in that community, that has been active for the past decade.
Suzanne says that she decided to start the group after receiving encouragement from some of her friends and neighbors and says that the response from the community to her idea was very positive.
“I started Little Dresses on February 26, 2014. I was at a Bible Study discussion group and was asked if there was anything I was led to do. I told them that I’d like to start doing Little Dresses here, but that it was impossible. Then they looked at me and asked ‘Why?’.
“So, I put an advertisement into our local News in Five that I was starting up a Little Dresses Group in two weeks at the Free Methodist Church, because they had said we could use their hall free of charge. I was afraid that no-one would show up. But there were 21 ladies that came that first day.
“They came with sewing machines, yardsticks, cutters, material…everybody brought something. And it just got going from there.”
She goes on to explain that most of the dresses that volunteers in Wawota have made over the years, which are intended for children, have been taken to various countries by other volunteers as well.
“The dresses we make are for ages two – thirteen years and they’re made according to a very simple pattern. All you really have to do is adjust the elastic and make the dress longer for an older girl.
“Dresses that we’ve made have gone to Africa, South America, Haiti, the Caribbean, Mexico, and the Philippines. Most of them have gone to these places with people who were travelling to these various countries. That’s how all of them went to start with.
“For example, one fellow we know works in Africa. So, every time he comes back here, he fills up a suitcase to take to Africa with him, and an organization there distributes the dresses. Another lady we know from Moosomin was travelling to Tanzania about a month ago and took a suitcase full of dresses with her.
“COVID changed things of course, because nobody was travelling. So, during COVID, we were taking the dresses to Yorkton and they were sent from there to Saskatoon and put into a sea container of things bound for Africa. Along with the dresses, we’ve sent other things as well. For example, I sent a sewing machine one time, and they were quite happy to take it.”
Suzanne adds that the group of volunteers that have remained dedicated to Little Dresses work for much of the year, and hope to continue with this work well into the future.
“Those of us who get together to make these Little Dresses hope to continue doing this for as long as we can. Most of the ladies who come and take part are seniors. We’ve lost a few of our volunteers over the years, but we still have about twelve that come each week on average.
“We work from late October until mid-December and then from January until Easter (or mid-April if Easter is early). But we don’t do it in the summer, because everybody has a life and things just get too busy in the summer!”
The Eisler’s son Norm, who was recently in Wawota to visit with his parents, says that his mother’s efforts have even sparked interest among individuals in Creston, where he now lives.
“Both my mom and dad are committed to volunteering and I’m very proud of them for doing the things that they do,” says Norm. “I was telling a lady in Creston about mom’s Little Dresses, and she said that her mom might like to get involved in something like that.
“So, Mom is going to send a dress and pattern back with me and we’ll see. I know that there are groups in that community that do other things like Quilts for Kids, which is great. So many things like this are becoming a lost art. And I think it’s wonderful to see the kind of impact volunteers like this can have on their community and on other communities around the world.
Suzanne says that she is “very honoured to be receiving this medal” and hopes that recognition like this might prompt others to become volunteers in their community.
“Volunteering is so important in places like Wawota. Small communities like this run on volunteers. But it seems that some younger people find it hard to volunteer for things. They have so much going on in their lives. And people often don’t even know their neighbours. That can make it harder to connect with others and do things like this.”
But maybe by recognizing volunteers with something like this medal, others will be encouraged to get involved with something in their community.
“I never in my wildest dreams imagined this Little Dresses would last this long. So, if there’s something that a person is led to do, I would tell them to just go ahead and do it. Even if you think it might not work, it’s worth a try. Because you never know what will come out of something that you start.”

Previous articleKipling Clipper – March 29, 2024
Next articleFour adults found dead in Neudorf