In a world where it sometimes seems like tragedy prevails over triumph, it is uplifting to witness the good that humanity can offer to our great nations. Poverty, disease, homelessness and lack of education are just some of the ills that many have aimed to stamp out, here in America and in countries around the world.
A continent of focus is Africa, where disease and death are commonplace. Recently, our attention has focused on the devastation of this once historically rich region through causes sponsored by American Idol's 'Idol Gives Back' campaign and Madonna's ongoing efforts in Malawi. However, there are many other organizations working diligently to help heal a wound that has been open for far too long. The HELP Malawi Foundation is one of the organizations that is doing just that.
On April 19, 2007, the foundation along with actress Mena Suvari, Lubov Azria and prominent jewelry designer Lori Leavitt, hosted an event to launch the Panthera Jewelry Collection at the Max Azria store in Los Angeles, CA. Through a partnership with longtime friend Lori Leavitt, Jillian Wolstein, founder of HELP Malawi, has discovered another avenue to raise funds for this worthy cause. Recording artist Macy Gray, actress Shondrella Avery and Franz Wisner author of Honeymoon with my Brother were among the guests that came out to show their support. Additionally, Franz Wisner donated a large quantity of his novels, which shares his own experience when venturing to Malawi.
'The Panthera collection was inspired by a pair of lion-embossed cuff links from 1910' I knew that the image of the lion would be an ideal representation for the foundation because of its strength and connection to Africa,' stated Leavitt. She added that after creating the first pieces of the line, she knew that it would fit appropriately and stylistically with the overall theme of the HELP Malawi cause. At present, the collection boasts 14 karat gold rings, cufflinks, and linked bracelets with black and white pearls. 100% of the proceeds from the Panthera Jewelry sales will go directly to the foundation and pieces can be purchased through Lori's Website.
Through the creation of HELP Malawi, Jillian Wolstein and her family intend to spread hope, education, love and protection to Malawian children. But how did this idea come about for this Cleveland native family? Well, after taking a trip to Africa, the Wolstein family not only focused on fun and the creation of family memories, they focused on the land in which they traveled and the people they saw.
Upon returning to the U.S., Jillian couldn't get the dire images from her thoughts, 'I knew that I needed to do something to make a difference,' she states. And so, HELP Malawi was born. Through its partnership with Wilderness Safaris, the foundation has started the process to build schools to allow these children, many of which have been orphaned, to realize that dreams are oftentimes bigger and more powerful than reality.
Through the schools, the children will gain the education needed to live healthier and more promising lives. Basic education will be taught along with AIDS awareness and safe sex practices. The first of these schools is slated to open by the end of May, but the dream and vision doesn't stop here. Wolstein also states that the money raised to support the foundation will be used to purchase generators necessary to providing nourishing meals to the school children. 'Oftentimes, it is not known when and if the children have eaten' with many of the children left to take care of themselves it is not uncommon for them to not have food,' states Wolstein.
As the event heated up, the Max Azria store became center stage for a group of African drummers and dancers. The rhythmic beats and flares of color from the dancers garment filled the space that is usually dedicated to fashion-forward clientele who are regulars to the trendy Melrose Avenue strip. Danielle, the store manager, affirmed the delight that the company has in making a contribution to the foundation.
For two weeks following the event, 15% of all Max Azria sales went directly to the foundation. 'We regularly carry Lori's jewelry line here in the store and we were excited to be the venue of choice to host the launch of the Panthera Collection,' states Danielle. Fashion, drums, dancers and celebrities did the night end there? No! I dare not leave out the delectable creations that were served up by Savore Cusine and Events. Skewered grilled chicken with a tangy curry sauce, vegetable chutney and fried plantains made rounds through the crowded space to everyone's delight.
All in all, I can affirm that HELP Malawi is on the right track to bringing nourishment to this once barren land, but it is up to the people to help keep this effort going. By purchasing and showcasing a piece from the Panthera Collection, you will not only be sharing the stylistic likings of celebrities such as Penelope Cruz, but you will be making a bold statement that you care about the world that we live in. Please show that you care!
UPDATE: Additional Contributors!
The following are a list of contributors who helped to make the night that much more special with their generous contributions to the H.E.L.P. Malawi Foundation.
RICHARD OLIVER COKE / PHOTOGRAPHY
Richard Oliver Coke, a native to KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, discovered a true talent for photography after joining Wilderness Safaris, as a guide, in the late 1990's. In his early travels, Coke became artistically inspired as he found himself continuously leading walks to view Bushman Paintings. He soon bought a used camera from a friend, which set off a passion and undiscovered talent in photography. Over the years he has built a wealth of experience and knowledge of the area: from the rivers and wetlands of Northern Botswana, to the vast Deserts of Namibia.
Coke joined the board of the H.E.L.P Malawi Foundation in early 2007, hoping to reach out globally, through his photographs to raise awareness and funding for the children in Malawi. Using his natural artistic eye to capture the beauty of the land and its inhabitants, Coke allows us to enter the warm heart of Malawi.
100% of the proceeds from the photographs will benefit the H.E.L.P. Malawi foundation.
VLEKKIE LOUW & FRIEDA LOUW / UNDER GARMENTS
Prollius, a true native of Africa and the designer of the Vlekkie Louw brand, is devoted to the idea of conceptual fashion; where every number, color and design serve a purpose or an underlined message. Prollius created a limited edition collection exclusively for the H.E.L.P. Malawi Foundation consisting of boxer briefs, for men, and thongs for woman. The never-ending fight against the AIDS virus was the inspiration for the under garment, as they were ingeniously designed with a small pocket for the placement of a condom. The design provides a fashionable way to arm oneself against the virus that has plagued Africa for so many years.
'In battle you are your own worst enemy. For there is no right or wrong... Only the consequences of your choices: Embrace that. Then love and enjoy life' - PROLLIUS
WILDERNESS SAFARIS & DISCOVER AFRICA / HANDCARVED KEYCHAINS
Discover Africa is a boutique travel agency specializing in custom designed trips to Africa through Wilderness Safaris. Founder of Discover Africa and native of Zimbabwe, Leslie Kaye, has partnered with Wilderness Safari's to give her clientele the most unique traveling experience. As a native to Africa, Kaye, has a true passion and love for its inhabitants. The people of Malawi made hand carved wooden animal key chains; that were sold to Kaye and Wilderness Safaris. Kaye and Wilderness Safaris have joined efforts to raise awareness for the H.E.L.P. Malawi Foundation and have donated the key chains to support the launch of the Panthera Collection.
A special thank you goes out to Max Azria on Melrose Avenue. Store information can be retained at www.maxazria.com!
For additional information on the HELP Malawi Foundation, please log onto www.helpmalawichildren.com.
For additional information on Lori Leavitt and her jewelry, please log onto www.lorieleavitt.com.
For additional information on Franz Wisner's novel, please log onto www.honeymoonwithmybrother.com.