Compared to medical supplies and equipment, wedding dresses seem like a far cry from what Medical Equipment Modernization Opportunity (MEMO) usually sends to Zimbabwe. But here is “Our Story” of how seventeen wedding dresses donated by a local business woman are bringing hope and dignity to Zimbabwean couples and families. MEMO is Thunder Bay’s own humanitarian organization bringing hope, healing and dignity to needy and suffering Zimbabwean’s by sending ocean containers of needed medical supplies several times a year. MEMO works with its sister organization the Zimbabwe Gecko Society to develop just, prosperous and self-sustaining rural communities in that country.

It all began when Erika Maki of Spa for You offered MEMO seventeen gorgeous, used but still perfectly good wedding dresses. She received them from Irma Ricci and her daughter Josy Valliant who operate Irma’s Boutique here in Thunder Bay. Erika had been sending wedding dresses for years to developing countries but the pandemic put an end to that. MEMO, which operated through the pandemic asked Dr. Paul Thistle, a Canadian doctor who runs the 150 bed Karanda Mission Hospital in rural Zimbabwe if they would have any use for them. Here is Dr Thistle’s reply:

“Yes, please! 5 to 10 if able to share that many. This is part of the answer to our prayers concerning marital counseling issues. Most of our couples at Karanda have not been married in a Christian ceremony because of the cost of a wedding … including the gown!

Thank you so much.


MEMO sent all seventeen dresses in a container with 10 tons of other medical and humanitarian supplies. Recently we received this update from Dr. Thistle:

“Thanks, for this opportunity. I regret the delay. The couple in the photo are Mr. and Mrs. Francis Chigwenya. They were married in holy matrimony at Karanda’s marriage ceremony in May 2022. Both are nurse/midwives at Karanda. They have three children. 

Thanks again to our friends and supporters who provided the gowns and made the wedding affordable to our staff and community at Karanda. By popular demand, we are looking forward to repeating this event later this year, using the same dresses.

Paul Thistle BSc (Hon), MD, FRCSC (Ob/Gyn), LL.D

Medical Director

Karanda Mission Hospital

Someone has said that poverty in the western world is described in terms of not having THINGS.

Poverty in the Third World (Majority World) is described as not having HOPE. Because of generous people in Thunder Bay, Zimbabwean couples have been given hope for a happier future.

It costs MEMO $34,000 dollars to send a 40’ ocean container to Zimbabwe. If you would like to be part of giving hope to the hopeless click on “Donate”.

Donated wedding dresses grace multiple marriage ceremony.
Mr. and Mrs. Francis Chigwenya
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