Stephanie Wetzel, Intern ICA
On Saturday, April 27, 2019, International Child Advancement (ICA) hosted the Empowered Fashion Show Fundraiser to raise funds and awareness in support of their organization’s mission: empower orphans and underprivileged children through education, vocational training, livelihood provision and mentoring. The fashion show is ICA’s biggest event of the year and featured clothing made by the children who have enrolled in the Vocational Training Program specializing in sewing. Evelyn Kessler, ICA Founder, and Channel 7 News Anchor/Empowered Fashion Show Fundraiser Co-Emcee,Courtney Corbetta, each had the privilege of wearing two of the dresses made by the children of the GUAOA Orphanage.
Kessler and ICA volunteer, Serah Masika, were interviewed by WKBW/Channel 7 News in Buffalo, NY during the event. Masika, who mentioned in the interview that she was born and raised in Kenya, explained some of the challenges she faced that led her to become such a major part of this organization. She explained that her daughter was diagnosed with cancer which led to ICA’s additional partnership with Hope For Cancer Kids. One of the goals of the fashion show was to raise money to benefit this organization through the launch of an Indoor Therapy Learning Program.
Additionally, another goal of the fashion show was to also raise money for children who live in the GUAOA Orphanage, located within the city of Goma, and have lost their families to the war that has been waging in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for the last 25 years. Kessler also shared her own struggles and how that led her to ICA. Her family is originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and she was the only one out of eight children who was born in the United States. She returned to the Congo with her family when she was very young, but was forced to leave because of the war. “I myself have also experienced loss during the war with my family,” she said, citing this as part of her reason for her passion in providing these children opportunities through ICA. Kessler described the mission of ICA as being able to “empower children to become self-sufficient”. The ultimate goal of the organization is to provide enough support so that once the children leave the orphanage, they can move forward in their lives having developed key skills and knowledge to make them self-sustaining and independent.
This event would not have been possible without the help of local WNY sponsors, including Center for Global Development, Success Magazine, William Joseph Photography, Elsa Pedro of Howard Hanna Real Estate Services, Salon de Coquette, Love Your Hair by Michele, Agency Owner Michael C Dearing, Glory Market, Creativecoolbeans, Positive Nation Productions, The Shift, WKBW, Rich’s and Dicamillo Bakery. Multiple vendors also participated in the event, such as Color Street, Nicky Langworthy Jewelry, Lanzo Safi African Fabrics, Paparazzi, Tastefullysimple and Mary Kay. Raffle baskets were donated and guests and volunteers alike had the opportunity to buy tickets to participate in the raffle. The proceeds raised from the event have been put towards the nonprofit to benefit the children of GUAOA Orphanage and children being treated with cancer through the Hope for Cancer Kids foundation.
The Empowered Fashion Show Fundraiser was supported through the help of outside volunteers that were more than willing to assist during the planning stages as well as during the day of the event. The fashion show featured two Emcees, Courtney Corbetta and John Buccilli, whose positive energy and great enthusiasm did not go unnoticed by the crowd. Buccilli brought over 25 years of modeling experience and has worked with clients such as Macy’s and Saks 5th Avenue. The musical guest, Mindy Davey, provided additional entertainment and inspiration to the audience. Davey is a singer/songwriter originally from Buffalo, NY who recently celebrated the release of her new album, Humanity. Davey performed some of her original songs, which included themes surrounding bullying and adversity, as well as cover songs at the event. In addition to the GUAOA Orphanage Collection, local WNY designers Sasmita Batik, and Bella La Vie Collection lent their pieces to be strut on the catwalk during the event. The event would be remiss if it were not for the local makeup artists, Shanice Ramonia Brown (of CreativeCoolBeans) and Kim (of All Dolled Up Beauty Bar), as well as hair stylists, Michele Lamour and Charlene Minx (of Salon Coquette) who were able to showcase their glamorous talents and beautified the models throughout the fashion show.
Kessler chose the word “empowered” as the title for the fashion show because she felt that the word really spoke to the mission of the organization as well as the values of the volunteers who make up ICA. The Empowered Fashion Show was an opportunity for so many of these volunteers to showcase this and to positively influence the local community who attended the event. One way this was displayed was through the choice to feature only non-professional models. Each of the models involved were given the opportunity to share how they empower the community themselves. Each model’s mission statement was featured in the program for the event.
Originally, the fashion show was not initially Kessler’s idea. In 2017, ICA held a spaghetti dinner fundraiser to benefit the education of the children of the orphanage and to purchase sewing machines for the Vocational Sewing Program. The Event Coordinator at the time suggested hosting a fashion show, to which Kessler then suggested using the clothes the kids designed themselves to signify the potential of what these children can accomplish. This gave the children of the orphanage recognition as well as raising awareness for this cause within the United States.
Since this event was established in 2017, ICA has held two fashion shows in the Western New York region and anticipates hosting its next show in 2021. Their ultimate goal is not only to improve the fashion show event itself, but also to continue its work toward improving the vocational education and financial support of the children whose lives this organization aims to empower. “Our end goal is to give these kids a hand up not a hand out,” Kessler said. She not only aspires to have these children become self-sufficient but to also have them become leaders in what they are learning.
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