(KMSP) - In the back room of a Minnesota quilt shop, an unassuming teenager is changing the world.
Lexi Fresh, 15, is not a big talker, which is okay, because she is a big “doer.”
Like a lot of kids, Lexi has taken in some heavy images from the news and social media. She's seen kids her age struggling to survive. She was especially moved by these girls living in Kenya and Haiti, many, of whom were forced into single motherhood in their early teens.
"She saw those little girls and she wondered how she could get to them,” Audrey Fresh, Lexi’s mother, told Fox 9.
It's a way of life Lexi will never understand. Still, when she looks at these girls, she says she sees herself: wide-eyed, hopeful. In many ways, they are cut from the same cloth.
"I’m a 15-year-old Girl Scout from Minnesota, USA. You are receiving this dress because I care about you and I hope to inspire you about Girl Scouts,” Lexi writes on the orders.
Wanting to connect with these kids who are a world away, Lexi, a lifelong Girl Scouts member, launched a scout project called 'Dress for a Change.' Her goal: sew and send 1,000 dresses to Kenya and Haiti and inspire girls there to join similar, empowering organizations in their countries.
"I’m a 15-year-old Girl Scout from Minnesota, USA. You are receiving this dress because I care about you and I hope to inspire you about Girl Scouts,” Lexi writes to the girls who receive the dresses. “The badge sewn to your dress is an actual badge I earned back in the U.S. I really hope for you to join because you can make your life better and also make the world a better place."
In Kenya and Haiti, a version of Girl Scouts exists. It's called 'Girl Guides’. They teach similar principles like self-worth and self-reliance, which is why Lexi decided to take her project one step further – sending them fabric and instructions so they could make and sell their own dresses.
"We're trying to help these girls up out of their poverty to grasp onto a better life,” Audrey says.
Karen Anderson is one of about 100 volunteers, determined to help Lexi reach her goal.
“I've asked questions along the way,” Anderson said. “Where the money came from and how you got the idea and all this kind of stuff and it almost blows my mind that all of this that came together and the way it had to come together."
Because having an idea is one thing, but funding it is another. It's costing Lexi about $7,000 to buy the materials and send the dresses overseas. So how does a 15-year-old Girl Scout earn that much dough?
“She spent two winters in the cold, [in] 17-below zero [temperatures] traveling to a corner of Minnesota by Iowa to find cookie booths because the cookie booths in the [Twin Cities] are so competitive."
Four thousand Girl Scouts cookie sales and several fundraisers later, Lexi earned enough money to make and send 1,072 dresses to her scout sisters in Kenya and Haiti, which is nothing compared to what she got in return.
"Dear Lexi, we are the Light of Hope Girl Scouts from Navasha, Kenya and we were so excited listening from you,” read one of the letters she received. “Thank you for the beautiful dresses you sewed for us. We loved them. You have inspired us in a positive way. We feel that you are a part of us."
Not one to accept kudos or credit, Lexi is still trying to take everything in. A simple ruffle dress, now a world away, is creating a powerful ripple effect. All of it, started by one unassuming teenager.
“I don't know why people helped me out so much,” Lexi said. “I was just a 15-year-old making these dresses and I thought people are just not going to be interested in it, but they were. And, they wanted to help out.”
After two years of very personal sacrifices and hundreds of hours of hard work, you can feel it. Lexi is ready to exhale. At the end of her interview, Fox 9 asked Lexi if she's emotionally drained. She's literally out of words, which is ok, because what she's done speaks for itself.
Lexi's biggest expense is buying the ruffle t-shirts. If you would like to donate, visit dressforachange.com.