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Saving lives with footed pajamas

“Did you know that footed pajamas can save lives?” That was the subject of an email that Sarah Bennison sent to 15 friends in 2010.

A mother with her baby at Village Healthworks in Burundi;
Credit: Courtesy Sarah Bennison

Sarah, a New York City mother and college professor, sent the email after learning that many babies die every year from complications related to body temperature regulation. Footed pajamas, acting as personal incubators, can have life-saving benefits.

Within one week of sending that email, Sarah had collected 250 pairs of footed pajamas which were sent to Village Healthworks (VHW) in Burundi, East Africa. Since 2010, Sarah has continued to collect gently used footed pajamas and the number of donation sites has increased.

“What touched me about it is that people in need in other places can seem so distant from our lives,” Sarah said. “The pajama drive became a connecting point between women here and women there.”

In addition to VHW, pajamas are sent to Sacred Valley Health in Peru, Mano a Mano in Bolivia, Nyaya Health in Nepal and Bridge Haven Transitional Residence in the South Bronx. Sarah recently sent her first shipment to a health clinic in Haiti through Open Hand, Inc., a nonprofit in Alpharetta, Georgia.

In November 2013, Sarah and her sister, Kate Bennison, founded BENNISON, a premium children’s clothing line. Sarah calls BENNISON a hybrid for profit company with a nonprofit mission.

For every Bennison sold, donated pajamas are sent to sick and malnourished children in some of the poorest regions of the world. Bennisons are handmade of the finest 100% Pima cotton by mothers and grandmothers in Lima, Peru. They can be purchased at www.bennisongives.com.

“When customers purchase a Bennison, they participate in cycles of giving,” said Sarah, “giving to the women the company employs in Peru, to the child who receives the beautifully made garment purchased, and to the children in need who receive donated pajamas with each purchase.”

Sarah said she has always had “an itch for activism,” but she is also motivated by the experience of motherhood. “You realize when you see other mothers, it’s such a universal experience,” she said. “Everyone deserves to be able to keep their children healthy and safe.”