Today we’d like to introduce you to Paula Villamizar and Angie Cohen.
Paula and Angie, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Back in early 2017, I was lucky to stumble across a sewing class in North Miami (Yep it was a New Year’s Resolution). I was petrified. Yet, as soon as I got there, I met a lovely lady (Angie) with a warm laugh and an amazing group of women. They were all different ages and nationalities but quickly became my friends. In short order, the weekly two-hour classes became my favorite place on earth. I was addicted to the group and never wanted to leave.
One day We all started to tell “our stories” and Angie told us that her dream was to take classes like our to less fortunate women around the world. She knew that teaching them the skill of sewing would enable them to become financially independent, free of abusive partners, and to become providers for themselves and their families. I took this dream to heart and I knew that what Angie had taught us (and how she taught it) could indeed be a major key to fighting poverty. I met with Angie one morning and told her that if she was willing to teach, I would find a place for us to do it and the way to get us there. In a matter of weeks, we’d formed a non-profit corporation (DesignlabGive) and Angie and I were business partners. She is our Creative Director and I became the Director of Planning and Development.
By August of 2017, we were heading to Cartagena, Colombia on our first “mission”. Along with an amazing group of 12 volunteers from Designlab, we taught the young women and girls of the “Fundacion Juanfe”, an adventure that we will never forget. Following that trip, we returned to Miami wanting to continue what we had begun. Because funds were low, we looked to the needs of our own community and began working with Lotus House (an amazing organization that helps homeless women, youth, and girls). We’re thrilled that from the small seed we planted there, they continue to have sewing classes at their new facility that mean so much to the residents. We also worked with Breakthrough Miami and Miami Country Day School to teach a group of “at-risk” high school girls at Designlab’s North Miami studio.
Our next project will take us to Africa in June 2020. Through one of Angie’s students, we were introduced to the groups “One Way Out”, “Dream Sponsors”, and “Sanguinetti & Co.” who travel regularly to a village near Nairobi. We’ll be joining forces with theses fantastic organizations for this major undertaking. Be on the lookout for our fundraising events and be part of a group of women that have discovered that great things happen when we come together and help each other.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The ride has been filled with heartfelt experiences, moments of extreme joy and much laughter. We’ve had so much fun putting these workshops together and plan to continue on our path. Fundraising, on the other hand, has been difficult as is spreading the word about DesignLab Give beyond our own community and that’s always a challenge. Despite the fact that all of our participants give their time to travel and volunteer, expenses are high. We need to consider travel costs, shipping of sewing machines, textiles, notions and all the other items needed to create. We do receive many items as donations, yet we still need to get them (and ourselves) overseas to help these women. As is understandable, the groups we visit have limited funds and as much as what we’re providing can help their members, they can’t financially participate so we count on the generosity of others to help make this dream happen.
We’d love to hear more about your organization.
DesignlabGive is a (501-C3) nonprofit and we spark creativity through our capacity building workshops. We teach the art of sewing and all aspects of fashion and design but more importantly, we empower these women and girls with new skills and the confidence that they can provide for themselves. Creativity is food for the soul and literally makes these women see the world differently. It can be an escape from their current circumstances as well as a way to connect with people and see that there is indeed a “way out”. We can’t think of anything we’d rather be doing!
- Currently selling gorgeous silk dresses for $250, styles seen on our Instagram
- Address: 2248 NE 123rd Street
North Miami, Florida 33181
- Website: www.designlabgive.org
- Phone: (305)992.5698
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @designlabgive
- Facebook: DesignlabGive
Camilo Morales, photographer