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On April 13, dozens of women from South Georgia gathered for Fashion for Hope, a fair trade fashion show hosted by non-profit SoloHope. Held at the historic Zebulon Theater, women of all ages from near and far enjoyed learning more about how their fashion choices have the power to change the world.
The event opened with video footage from Honduras of SoloHope’s story of how it came to work in Honduras with women overcoming poverty to create jewelry and home goods providing its artisans with dignified work that allows them the opportunity to provide for themselves and their families. At the close of the video, Thomasville local Sarah Dasha Taylor and the emcee for Fashion for Hope kicked off the event with some comments on what fair trade is and its importance.
“You probably don’t think of fair wages, a safe working environment and ethical treatment of workers as anything special because it’s the norm in the USA, what is expected by employees. But, that’s not necessarily the case in other countries around the world. And that’s what fair trade strives to ensure for the people who make your clothes or jewelry or coffee,” said Taylor.
Women from the South Georgia community modeled clothes, jewelry and accessories made by other women around the world. Val Heard modeled a blue dress made by a sex-trafficking survivor in Nepal paired with fringe earrings made in Honduras by SoloHope. Stacie Heald showed off a block-printed clutch made in India by marginalized women. Della Lovett wore bright-colored floral embroidered shoes crafted by men and women rising above poverty in Guatemala.
Other local models included Hannah Jo Claire, Annabel Whitehead, Summer Addison, Tawanna McKenzie, Ronda Jackson, Kacey Oliver, Palisa Bautista, Rubi Caballero, and Erica Wynne, all of whom volunteered their time to be a part of the event.
At the close of the fashion show, SoloHope founder and Cairo local Emilee Connell-Umanzor encouraged the women in attendance to use their voice and pocketbook to speak up for women around the world who may feel voiceless because of their circumstances.
“Today we have the opportunity to use our voice for good. Today we can give a voice to the woman who is overcoming poverty. To the woman who has been trafficked. We can tell her through our purchases that ‘we see you and we use our voices for you.’” said Connell-Umanzor.
After the fashion show, attendees headed next door to the VanLandingham Center where a boutique was set up for people to purchase all the items they had just seen modeled in the fashion show. Refreshments catered by the Cairo High School Culinary Arts were provided as people shopped. Flowers from Annell’s Flower Shop graced the food tables. Additionally, each person went home with a swag bag that included SoloHope earrings and brownies from Delicious Delights.
Multiple people commented on how much they enjoyed the event and hoped it would become an annual event. One attendee said, “This event brought tears to my eyes multiple times just seeing how much a job can positively impact a woman’s life.”
“We wanted people to be excited to know that their voice and fashion could really change the world. Seeing the response of each person at the event and how people almost ran to purchase the items modeled in the fashion show really excited and encouraged me too!” says Connell-Umanzor. “I’m so grateful to all the people who made this event possible. So many people worked behind the scenes—volunteered, donated and then shopped to make this event a great success. The impact it created for SoloHope’s non-profit efforts in Honduras was amazing!”
Additionally, the event raised $250 for the tornado recovery efforts in Cairo by donating 20 percent of the event’s ticket sales. Those funds will be donated to the Cairo Help Agency’s special fund for tornado victims.
SoloHope’s headquarters is located in Cairo at 817 First Ave. The organization has plans to open a retail space in the fall which will feature artisan goods made by women and men around the world as well as their own products made in Honduras by the SoloHope artisan team. To learn more about SoloHope, their products and work in Honduras, visit solohope.org or email email@example.com.