From family celebrations to church events to recitals, the holiday season is full of events for which you want to look your best. But for some underprivileged girls, buying a new holiday dress isn’t an option, which is why the Believe in Yourself Project is stepping up to donate holiday dresses this season.
The Believe in Yourself Project is a nonprofit that provides “brand new, never-worn dresses to girls that are in need,” explained founder Sam Sisakhti, a Boston-based entrepreneur.
Before Believe in Yourself, Sisakhti founded UsTrendy, a top digital marketplace for women’s clothing, and often received dress samples from designers. He had been giving them to celebrities, but thought there must be a better use for those outfits, so he began donating them to girls who couldn’t otherwise afford new clothes.
Though Believe in Yourself is based in Boston, the nonprofit has hosted dress donations at Boys and Girls Clubs in cities across the country, from Newark to New Orleans. He’s organized giveaways around homecoming and prom, when many young girls are looking for dresses, but the holidays are just as important, he explained.
“With holidays coming up, a lot of [girls] have occasions with their family, some go to church, holiday dances are coming up with their school,” he said. And a new dress could mean a girl feels more comfortable attending these events and more confident in her actions.
“A lot of them that can’t afford new dress will sometimes be embarrassed to wear hand-me-downs. They won’t go to social events,” Sisakhti said. “One of my favorite stories is that there was girl who was a really talented musician who had a rectital but didn’t want to go because she had nothing to wear. Now she’s at one of top music schools. That's cool to hear.”
Believe in Yourself Project gives more than dresses
That big picture benefit is integral to Believe in Yourself. Sisakhti wants these girls to feel empowered, so at every dress donation event, they’re asked what is their dream — they could answer that they want to be a musician, a soccer player, or so on — and to set short term goals towards that finish line.
“If they achieve it, we mail them more dresses,” Sisakhti said. Believe in Yourself also brings in mentors to dress donation events who talk about how they overcame adversity to achieve their own goals, as well as psychologists who share positivity and anti-bullying tips.
Soon, Sisakhti hopes to expand the project to boys, as well, by donating dress shirts, dress pants, ties and belts.
Boston-area girls get new holiday dresses at Roxbury Boys and Girls Club, with Sam Sisakhti in center. Photo: Provided by Sam Sisakhti
A group of girls recently got to pick out their new holiday dresses at a Believe in Yourself event at the Roxbury Boys and Girls Club Boston ahead of Thanksgiving. Through December and the beginning of January, Believe in Yourself has five dress donations planned throughout New York City.
On Giving Tuesday and beyond, the nonprofit accepts donations of money (which goes towards purchasing new dresses); new dresses that still have tags; or time for those who want to volunteer as a mentor. Anyone interested can reach out at believeinyourself.org.
“One of the biggest things is it’s giving a lot of the kids hope and inspiration,” Sisakhti said. “And at end of the day, a lot of people say it’s just a dress, but it’s more than a dress. It’s a belief system.”