Faces of Christmas

This teenager helps keep African children in school by teaching them how to sew

Chandler Baladjanian, 18, holds a photo of orphans in the Ugandan village of Hoima who learned to sew through Baladjanian’s The Invisible Thread Girl Scout project. Baladjanian is a 2017 Faces of Christmas.
Chandler Baladjanian, 18, holds a photo of orphans in the Ugandan village of Hoima who learned to sew through Baladjanian’s The Invisible Thread Girl Scout project. Baladjanian is a 2017 Faces of Christmas. ezamora@fresnobee.com

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The basics: Chandler Baladjanian, 18, is a senior at University High School. Her Girl Scout gold award project, The Invisible Thread, is helping children in Africa mend their school uniforms so they can attend class. She has served two terms on the Fresno Youth Commission and is on the Fresno Chamber of Commerce Junior Board. Baladjanian is also in mock trial and tap dances.

What she does: Baladjanian wrote and published a how-to sewing book, collected sewing kits and buttons and sent them with missionaries to two villages in Africa. The children learn a new skill and are able to mend their own clothes. Baladjanian has contacts in Uganda who help run her project, and she thinks she’s helped about 200 children so far. “We don’t think something like that could help,” she says, “but over there it makes a difference.”

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Chandler Baladjanian, 18, is a Girl Scout who started The Invisible Thread, an organization that helps children in African learn to sew. ERIC PAUL ZAMORA ezamora@fresnobee.com

Why she does it: “Education is such a big thing here in the U.S., I think it should be available in Uganda as much as it is here,” Baladjanian says. Children in Uganda often have tattered uniforms, she says, and if they don’t have proper clothing, they aren’t allowed to go to school. “I learned to sew from my grandmother from a young age,” Baladjanian says. “It’s easy to learn, and it will be able to be passed on.”

The turning point: Baladjanian attended an event with the Girl Scouts where she met Hinds Hospice founder Nancy Hinds. “She was one of the women being recognized and I sat at her table,” Baladjanian says. Upon hearing of Hinds’ missionary work in Uganda, Baladjanian felt she wanted to help.

Details, details:The point of the (Girl Scout) gold award is that it has to be sustainable,” Baladjanian says. She wants to expand to more parts of Africa and even Korea. Baladjanian said that although she hasn’t seen the children she’s helping in person, the photos her contacts sent her of children smiling as they sew proves what she’s doing is worthwhile. “Children in villages are grateful for something so small. It just felt like I gave them the moon,” she says.

What others say:The award does not come without hours and hours of work, dedication, imagination and fortitude,” Hines says. “I was so touched that she would care about the children in the African mission I worked (with) in Kitovu and in Hoima. She will be an inspiration to other Girl Scouts.”

How you can help: The Invisible Thread needs sewing kits, buttons, thread, needles, fabric and sewing machines. New or used will do, Baladjanian says. She’s especially interested in manual sewing machines, which can be used when there is no electricity. Donations can be dropped off at the Girl Scout Council at 1377 S. Shaw Avenue. Baladjanian also manages The Invisible Thread Facebook page, where she posts updates on the project.

Ashleigh Panoo: 559-441-6010, @AshleighPan

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