Imagine not being able to go to school because you can’t afford a uniform. This is a reality for about 260 million kids around the world.
Two sisters from Mission Viejo, Catherine and Maureen Maloof, helped start Uniforms for Hope  to change that. Catherine is a chiropractor while Maureen is a business consultant. Maureen especially loves to travel and has visited more than 40 countries. When she goes, she likes to visit orphanages and schools–anywhere there are kids. The two recently traveled to Peru.
“Really, they’re just like the kids here,” Maureen said. “They get so excited about showing their school work, they have their little uniforms on. We realized that a lot of kids weren’t going to school because they couldn’t afford the uniform.”
“The difference with [many] kids here is that everything is handed to them,” Catherine said. “I treat a lot of kids and a lot of them don’t have jobs. They have no idea what it’s like to earn money because their parents just pay for everything. How could kids here realize the value? A week at Starbucks could send a kid to school for a year.”
When they got back to Mission Viejo, Maureen began researching kids in poverty-stricken areas being unable to receive an education because they couldn’t buy a uniform. When she talked to her friends about it, they weren’t aware that it was an issue.
“[The kids] come from poor families,” Maureen said. “Their parents can’t afford a uniform. “I said, ‘Gosh, I should probably do something about it.’ And then I came back and was like, well, what could one person do to make a difference? It’s going to be too hard so I kind of put it on the backburner, but I had the idea that I’m going to do it one day.”
Then one day she realized that nobody was doing anything about it. So she started researching how to open a non-profit organization.
“When I first had the idea that I was going to actually do it, everybody [I knew] was a little negative,” Maureen said. “They were like, don’t set up your own 501c(3). It’s too difficult. It’s too hard to keep track of all the finances. It’s hard with the IRS. There’s so many regulations. I said, ‘Well I guess I can do it myself,’ so I researched everything. I did all the paperwork. I didn’t really listen to what other people said. I said I have to think of all the kids and how we’re going to help and eventually everybody will get on board and that’s kind of what happened. I figured that if I just help a few kids, it’s fine, but the ultimate goal is to help a lot of kids and to save a lot of lives.”
So far they’ve helped children in the Philippines, Congo, Uganda and Kenya. In Congo there’s a leadership academy with more than 500 students that have been the direct beneficiary of their aid.
“We’ve met them,” Catherine said. “They came here and we spent time with them. We saw the advances they were making. The board of directors over there is changing lives because they’re teaching them how to be leaders.”
The sisters also take their organization to schools here to talk to kids about how easy and good they have it over here compared to children in other nations. Just telling American students that others aren’t able to go to school because they can’t afford a uniform can really open eyes, the Maloof sisters said.
Uniforms for Hope would like to start partnering schools here with schools abroad, so American kids can directly help students overseas. They are also looking to expand, from Orange County to California as a whole, and then the nation.
“We have no idea how good it is,” Maureen said. “People need to be grateful for everything they have here.”