MY STORY: RECLAIMING CELEBRATION AFTER ABUSE
I was 17 years old when I became a victim of sexual assault by a boy whom I trusted. A boy who claimed to love me. I will never forget the gut-wrenching, soul-suffocating feeling that I still, 11 years later, somehow can't find the words to adequately describe. How do you begin to articulate a pain so unfathomable that the very breath that gives you life becomes an unbearable reminder of the innocence that was mercilessly stolen from you by a monster in the dark? You see, there is something mysterious that happens to the abused. For when you are used for a purpose in which you were never intended, you are left devoid of the desire to laugh, to enjoy... to celebrate.
And yet. Here I am. Breathing. Laughing. Enjoying. Celebrating. Living proof that what the enemy meant for evil, God used for good. Good in that I, in and through my process of redemption and healing, now have an authority unlike any other in the face of someone else in pain desperate to be heard. Because when a woman opens up to me for the first time about the bruises under her shirt and I look her in the eyes saying "I know", she knows without a shadow of a doubt that I do. And when she witnesses me rise above the very thing that should have killed me, she knows that she too, can not only heal, but THRIVE.
This is the power of our testimony. It is the lifeblood that heals broken hearts and restores the lost to become found. And first and foremost, it is the miracle in the matchless Name of Jesus that is the solid rock on which I stand.
When I felt God's calling tug in my heart to The Philippines I never could have guessed the way he would grow my heart towards distressed communities suffering due to circumstances beyond their control. Slowly but surely my passion for anti-human trafficking awareness and adoration for the dying culture of artisanal craftsmanship developed into the collaborative celebration of artisanal handbags that is Láro.
Together with my partner Lea Bodie, we are seeking to be problem solvers in a world that demands change. The problem is an underprivileged and marginalized society fallen under social injustice; particularly indigenous artisans lacking a sustainable livelihood and women affected by human trafficking in need of awareness and/or active rehabilitation. The Láro solution is a 3-point cycle of change designed to support artisanal communities, leverage fashion as a means to educate and empower consumers, and join the fight against human trafficking. We do this by hosting empowerment workshops to raise awareness for our advocacies as well as donate a portion of all sales towards the fight against human trafficking. To learn more about Láro, click here.
Our collection is lovingly handcrafted by local artisans and drenched in the rich heritage and legacy of The Philippines. Láro integrates traditional signature techniques of weaving, embroidery, and beadwork from various indigenous groups. We are launching an inspired collaboration with Adante Leyesa, a local designer and artisan from The Philippines. Each handbag is an exclusive, one-of-a-kind creation, made of local materials in partnership with indigenous artisans. We seek to celebrate the vibrant handiwork of the Ifugao basket weavers, the embroidery of the Abra Tribe of Luzon, and the beadwork of the Gawad Kalinga communities; sharing their vision with the global market. To be the first to shop the collection, click here.
Our deepest desire is that every woman who comes across our brand would leave inspired by a revelation of her worth. That those who have survived pain in their life would no longer be enslaved but rather, be set FREE in the face of unconditional grace. For the hurting to know that they are not alone and there is a love bigger than their pain. Láro is our homage to those who have been robbed of their sacred purity; it is our way of reminding them that it is not only their privilege but their right to reclaim celebration once again.
Photography: Japhet Arcedera